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Idlewild Park unveils Wowabunga Family Wave Pool

A wave pool and new circus acts have been added to Idlewild and SoakZone -- features that are expected to keep the amusement park ranked as one of the top summer attractions in the country, park officials said.

About 500,000 visitors are expected this year at Idlewild, which opened full time for the season on Wednesday.

Park spokesman Jeff Croushore said the Wowabunga Family Wave Pool replaces the pool that had been used continually since 1931. The park opened in 1878.

"(The pool) served us well for many decades, but it was expensive to maintain," Croushore said. "(The wave pool) is new and exciting."

The 182-foot-long pool delivers seven minutes of waves for every 10 minutes of calm water, Croushore said.

While the park was in the pre-season-operating mode for the past several weekends, park officials experimented with the size and intensity of the waves, he said. The waves are strong enough that they are white-capped, but "not too intense that little kids can't enjoy" the experience.

Before entering the pool, children under 48 inches in height are outfitted with free life jackets.

The pool represents "the single-largest capital improvement project in Idlewild's history" and costs in the "multimillion-dollar" range, Croushore said.

As for the name, Wowabunga started out as "cowabunga" from 1950s "Gidget" surfing movies, Croushore said.

"We were going to couple (cowabunga) with some other descriptive word," he explained. "For instance, Cape Cowabunga or Cowabunga Cove, but with a little more research we realized at least one other water park had an attraction with a similar name, so we tweaked it a little."

The live performance Cirque Extreme Under The Big Top features a high-wire act, an aerial act, limbo dancers, trained dogs and cats, and a contortionist who manages to fit into a small box.

Amusement Today magazine recently named Idlewild the "best kids' park in the world." The National Amusement Park Historical Association Survey rated Idlewild the "best park for families," beating out Disney World in Orlando, Fla., among others, Croushore said.

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