Sunday, August 31, 2003

Six Flags New England Garners Second Humanitarian Award in a Week

Six Flags Theme Parks, coming off an announcement of roughly the 35th straight year of massive losses, needed some good news, and it got some. Six Flags New England, in Agawam, Massachusetts, received its second major award for humanitarian activities in just a week. Just a few days ago, SFNE received the Phillip Morris Public Service Award for encouraging heavy and rule-violating smoking among minors.

And this week, the news was even better, as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (better known as HUD) awarded the theme park the annual Award for Practical Efforts to End Homelessness.

SFNE's spokeswoman Martha Quinn-Bouza shared with ARN&R the basis for the prize.

"We realized we had a lot of comfortable and padded space that was never used by the park," she said over a nine-dollar serving of roasted potatoes. "Specifically, the second and third trains for all of our coasters sit abandoned almost all the time. So we figured -- why not let the homeless live in there?"

The park has opened to the homeless what Quinn-Bouza describes as "totally unnecessary and superfluous" trains on Thunderbolt, Cyclone, and Superman: Ride of Steel. "We haven't used the second train on Thunderbolt since sometime in the 1950s, and the Cyclone hasn't had two-train operation since about 1991," she said. "And we realized we were really only using the second train on Superman when the line exceed eighteen hours and our patrons actually begin eating each other. So we gave Superman's train to a real nice family where both parents had been working for dot-coms."

The park had previously attempted to encourage a family to move into Mind Eraser's spare train, but were rebuffed. "It's the craziest thing," she said. "They said they'd rather sleep on park benches than come near a Vekoma train."

HUD Secretary Mel Martinez elaborated: "This is just the sort of thing we in the Bush administration want to encourage, since we have no plans to actually spend money to help the homeless. Really, the only way we'd like this more is if there were crazy evangelicals screaming at the homeless families, so we could call it 'a faith-based initiative.'" He added, "It might be good if they gave them bathrooms, too. Their urine stench is making the park smell bad." Martinez later corrected his comments when he was told that the park has always smelled like that.

President Bush even mentioned the park's initiative in a speech to junior high students near his ranch in Crawford, Texas. "Roller coasters fun. Go up, down."