Great America to reopen -- without rides -- for Holiday in the Park
Six Flags Great America in Gurnee will open its gates in November for the first time this year, park officials announced Thursday, but visitors will be there to take in holiday lights -- not ride the park's roller coasters.
Though the theme park has remained closed so far this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials announced Thursday morning the state has granted them permission to reopen for the Holiday in the Park winter season starting Nov. 27 and continuing each weekend through the end of 2020. The rides will not reopen yet.
This will be the third time the park has hosted its winter season. The park will be festooned in 2.5 million holiday lights. Guests will also be able to have socially distanced photo opportunities with costumed characters, according to the park's release.
Melaney Arnold, a public information officer with the Illinois Department of Public Health, said Thursday that the rides will not be in operation because there is an elevated risk for potentially spreading COVID-19, including people being close together on the rides and while waiting in line.
"After reviewing the plan and speaking with local leaders, (Great America) was allowed to move forward with its plans to open the park to visitors to view the holiday lights only," Arnold said in an email.
Though the theme park portion did not open this year, the state did give permission for the adjacent water park Six Flags Hurricane Harbor to open in July. Many of the safety procedures that were in place for those participating in summer fun -- such as stepped-up sanitation and high-tech thermal imaging for temperature checks -- will also be used for those coming to enjoy holiday lights.
"As always, the safety of our guests and team members is our top priority," Six Flags Great America Park President Hank Salemi said. "Our new health and wellness protocols create an environment that allows everyone to safely experience the magic of the holidays."
Earlier this week officials from the Lake County Health Department expressed doubt that the theme park would be allowed to open, citing the upward trend in cases in Illinois and surges happening in other Midwestern states.
Officials from the Lake County Health Department were not involved in the decision to reopen the theme park, according to spokeswoman Hannah Goering.
In the release, Salemi said he greatly appreciated the support of Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik and Gov. J.B. Pritzker throughout the reopening process.