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Elitch Gardens

Old and new in
Elitch's tradition

Joe Southern
For the Vacation Guide

   DENVER From Batman to Bugs Bunny and wet 'n' wild to wild thrills, Six Flags Elitch Gardens is the place to be this summer.

   Colorado's premier theme park opens for its 110th season this year with a renewed focus on fun.

   "We won't be adding new attractions to the park ... it's kind of a year to revamp," said public relations manager Stephanie Goodell.

    "Our employees will be getting a very comprehensive training program on good service. Our guests are our business and we want to treat them the best we can."

   This year the park is "celebrating three centuries of fun." It opened the 2000 season on April 28 with a huge birthday celebration as the 360-foot observation tower was transformed into the world's tallest birthday candle.

   Elitch Gardens began when John and Mary Elitch turned their small apple orchard on the outskirts of Denver into a ball park and picnic area. In 1995, Elitches moved from 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street to its current location next to the Pepsi Center.

   A year later it was bought by Premier Parks Inc., which, in turn, bought the Six Flags Parks and converted Elitches into a Six Flags theme park. That introduced a world of Warner Bros. and DC Comics characters to Elitches. With the infusion of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and company came Batman and Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman and a cast of heroes and villains. It also brought millions of dollars to upgrade the park and add new attractions and rides.

   Though there may not be any new rides this year, there will be plenty of new things to do and experience. There are new shops, including a chocolate factory, and the 400-seat Trocadero Ballroom is open.

   This fall, the sounds of funk, rock, blues, country and Latin music will pulsate from the park. Each weekend in September will feature a music festival.

    The yet-to-be-announced list of entertainers will include both local and big-name national acts.

   The Space Expo 2000, the only touring space station in America, will be at Elitches May 23-26 with its educational displays, museum quality models, space artifacts and other fun surprises.

   Guests at the park this summer can expect to mingle with their favorite costumed characters from Looney Tunes and DC Comics.

   Of course, what would Elitches be without its rides? The park is home to four state-of-the-art roller coasters, including the steel-track coasters Boomerang, Mind Eraser and Sidewinder and the wooden giant, Twister II.

   Included in the $30 ticket price ($15 for children under 48 inches tall) is the Island Kingdom Water Park sort of a park-within-a-park. The water park features water slides, a wave pool and Hook's Lagoon, a play area for small children.

   Other thrills at Elitches include the Tower of Doom, a 22-story free-falling platform. For those yearning for a slower pace, the 72-year-old carousel has been brought over and now operates in the new park.

   "It's all hand carved and it's still a popular attraction in the park," Goodell said.

   Batman fans can return to Gotham City as the Batman Forever Thrill Spectacular returns for its second season.

    Guests can watch as the Caped Crusaders take on the Joker and Two-Face. "It's one of those edge-of-your-seat kind of shows," Goodell said.

   For those with small children, the Looney Tunes Movie Town is open, featuring kid-size rides and stage shows with Bugs, Taz, Porky and the gang.

   "Most parents come in here with kids and basically don't leave ... It's the same thing as the (rest of the park) but on a smaller scale," Goodell said.

   For more information about Elitches, call 303-595-4386 or visit the Web site at sixflags.com.