The sounds of fun and laughter filled the air Saturday in North Georgia for the 89th opening day of Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park.
"Opening day is usually a pretty well-attended day, especially when the weather is warm and sunny," park spokeswoman Talley Green said.
What makes the park fun is that the rides are exciting, but also safe, said Devan Bomar, 14, and Bryson Bishop, 15, both of Cleveland, Tenn.
"Also, they have a real good choice [and] variety in rides," Bomar added. "I think they have some pretty cool rides for little kids, who aren't as tall or as brave as other kids."
Lake Winnie won't make as big a splash as it did last summer when the SoakYa Water Park opened. But the family-owned amusement park on Lakeview Drive in Catoosa County, Ga., still has some new things in store.
On Thursdays in May, Green said, parkgoers will receive $5 off an unlimited ride pass if they bring canned food to donate to the Chattanooga Food Bank.
Lake Winnie opened on Mondays for the first time in 2013, Green said, and will continue to do so this year. The park will continue its "Mom's Monday" promotion in June, under which moms can get in free when accompanied by two children who pay full price. Lake Winnie also will feature local country music bands at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays at the park's Lakeside Stage.
Angie Cochran, who, along with family and friends, traveled more than two hours from Douglasville, Ga., said that they're more familiar with Six Flags, and she likes that Lake Winnie is less expensive, less crowded, offers more rides for little kids and has "nicer employees."
Cochran added that it had been several years since they had visited, and they hadn't known about SoakYa, but plan to return sometime in the summer for the water park.
Only the ride side of the park opened Saturday. The SoakYa Water Park opens on May 24, two days before Memorial Day, and will have a "new" attraction when it opens.
The Pipeline Plunge, an enclosed water flume with rafts that was just outside SoakYa, has been renamed the Zoom Flume and incorporated into the water park.
"Now it's connected to SoakYa," Green said. "It just made sense. It's a splash water ride right beside the water park, so why not do a little reorganizing and make it part of the water park?"
When Lake Winnie officials built SoakYa, they hoped to get a tax break for creating a new tourist attraction. That still hasn't materialized.
"That is still in the government agencies' hands," Green said.
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Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.