April 9, 2007
Austell, GA -- Mass chaos and bad publicity resulted from a radio station promotion that got out of control at Six Flags Over Georgia last Thursday. Thousands showed up and thousands were turned away from the Q-100 sponsored event for the opening of Six Flags' 2007 season. The event offered free admission to the theme park from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and breakfast.
Bert Weiss the morning host on Q-100 said that Six Flags expected the crowd would build throughout the morning.
He was quoted as saying, "It was just impossible to predict that many people would show up that early."
A Six Flags spokesperson also seemed surprised that there were already 300 cars lined up at 2:00 a.m. Some started to arrive as early as midnight.
According to witnesses and news reports, at about 3:30 am thousands of unruly guests rushed the front gate, jumping barriers and running over others when the park began to hand out tickets. Fights broke out and some were beaten up for the free tickets.
One guest who reportedly was waiting since midnight said, "They ran over us."
Fortunately, it appears that no one was seriously injured in the mayhem.
Traffic along the nearby interstate came to a grinding stop with gridlock all morning long. Commuters reported that teenagers were jumping out of cars and walking along I-20 in an attempt to get to the theme park.
Motorists were advised by law enforcement to stay out of the area.
The police also said that they were not informed in advance of the promotion, so they were unprepared.
Before Six Flags opened the gates at 6:00 a.m. the parking lot was full and police had already closed the off ramp from the Interstate. Six Flags workers were also turning away those who were arriving at the gate.
Frustrated guests who waited in traffic on the way to Six Flags only to be turned away, were then stuck in traffic trying to get away from Six Flags.
To control the crowd who did get to enter, Six Flags opened the park in sections, but within 15 minutes of opening an estimated 15,000 people had already entered the theme park.
Six Flags said they were expected a large crowd, but did not anticipate such a large crowd at opening.
Those who were nearly trampled in the rush for tickets said, "Six Flags should've been better prepared."
A similar radio station sponsored promotion at Knott's Berry Farm for Cinco de Mayo in 1999 resulted in a near riot and fights inside the park. The event sponsored by Los Angeles station KIIS-FM at the Buena Park, California theme park offered five-cent admission.
For that event the park also quickly filled to capacity. Shortly after Knott's closed the gates teenagers inside, many who had skipped school, got unruly and started fights resulting in a near riot.
Police officers were summoned to the park and arrested a half a dozen youths in the incident.
Many of the kids said they did not care if they got kicked out since they had spent no more than nickel to get in.
Knott's Berry Farm General Manager Jack Falfas issued a public apology to the local community for the event.
In his letter Falfas said, (Knott's) "will carefully reevaluate all future promotions."
The only one to benefit from the Six Flags fiasco was Zoo Atlanta.
According to a zoo spokesperson, the staff arrived at the zoo to find a line of families waiting to get in after being turned away from Six Flags.
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