JACKSON, N.J. – It almost felt like a normal, blazing hot July day when the gates opened at Six Flags Great Adventure on Friday morning.
This summer, of course, nothing is quite normal during the coronavirus pandemic. That much was clear as the first guests of the season, donning protective face masks, queued up to have their body temperatures checked before entering the sprawling theme park at 10:30 a.m.
Friday marked the theme park’s first day in operation in months, according to the Asbury Park Press, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network. Opening day was reserved for members and season pass holders. The park opened to the general public Saturday.
The gates opened to a light morning crowd 30 minutes ahead of schedule. By lunchtime, the line of vehicles waiting to reach the parking area stretched outside the theme park and down Route 537 to the interchange for Interstate 195.
Social distancing reminders and cleaning crews were conspicuous inside the park. On the rides, every other seat was left empty. Guests who wanted to avoid lines for food could place their orders online for pickup. There are designated outdoor “mask-free” areas for guests who need a break from their face coverings while social distancing.
One of the Jersey Shore’s biggest tourist attractions and largest seasonal employers, Six Flags Great Adventure has a large, loyal fan base and employs about 4,000 people every summer. Like other businesses upended by the COVID-19 crisis, it had to make major adjustments in its operations.
The theme park’s safety protocols include thermal imaging temperature checks for arriving guests, touchless bag checks, extra cleaning crews and plentiful hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations. Guests and team members must wear masks.
Guests are required to make online reservations and watch a video that outlines the safety protocols.
Opening weekend: Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson to open July 3 with masks and half-filled rides
Effective Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy allowed amusement parks, water parks and playgrounds to open at 50% capacity. Six Flags’ Hurricane Harbor water park remains closed.
“We believe these additional measures are appropriate in the current environment,” said Mike Spanos, president and chief executive officer of Six Flags Entertainment, the parent company of the Jackson theme park.
Keith Schubert is the morning breaking news reporter. He can be contacted via text, call or signal at (732) 239-8731 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @keithsch94.
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This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: COVID-19: Crowds flock to Six Flags Great Adventure for opening day