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Thomas the Tank pulls into Six Flags New England

Richard Scott Vellinga, four years old, David Vellinga, two years old, and Anika West, three-and-a-half years old take a ride on Harold the Helicopter at the Grand Opening of Thomas Town at Six Flags New England on June 26.
By Katelyn Gendron-List, Staff Writer

AGAWAM Children of all ages were beaming with excitement as their favorite PBS characters came to life in front of their eyes when Thomas Town officially opened last week at Six Flags New England.

In keeping with their new campaign to tap into the children's market, with the opening of Wiggles World earlier this year, based off of the popular children's music group The Wiggles, Six Flags also opened Thomas Town officially to the public on June 26.

"We truly want to appeal to all members of the family," Larry Litton, park president of Six Flags New England said. "We have the best coasters and the best water park, and now we believe that we have the best family areas in the park."

Thomas Town is a small but comprehensive new feature to the front of the park, being very careful not to leave out any of Thomas the Tank Engine's friends. The area features the Thomas the Tank Engine ride, where children can embark on the railroad with Thomas at the helm of their train. The area also allows children to meet Sir Topham Hat throughout the day in addition to photo opportunities with the controller of Thomas's railway.

Children can also ride on the circular lift of one of Thomas's friends Bertie the Bus who just happens to sit next to Harold the Helicopter, where passengers have the opportunity to pilot their own individual helicopters.

Three such pilots filled with enthusiasm as they rode the Harold the Helicopter ride were Richard Scott Vellinga, four years old, David Vellinga, two years old, and Anika West three-and-a-half years old.

"My children are really huge fans of Thomas [the Tank Engine]," Sumer Vellinga, mother of Richard Scott and David Vellinga said. "They are so excited. They just had to come today."

The grand opening of Thomas Town was filled with ecstatic children as they rode the various rides as well as their parents who watched and snapped every photo they possibly could to capture their children's smiling faces.

"My children have been so excited for this," Brittanie West, mother of Anika West said. "They just love anything on PBS."

However, the throngs of children were not the only ones in attendance for the grand opening of this new area of the park. Richard Cohen, mayor of Agawam was also there to usher in Thomas and his friends.

"This is another tribute to Six Flags New England in their genuine quest to provide fun and entertainment for boys and girls of all ages," Cohen said. "We are very fortunate in Agawam and in the region to have a place for such pure, quality, family entertainment."

George Bitzas, Agawam City Councilor, also on hand for the festivities stated his willingness to see new features of the park open that appeal to people of all ages.

"It's a lot of fun to see young children and families able to enjoy the park, as they are sometimes left out of other [bigger] rides," Bitzas said. "What's good for the park is good for our town."

Marc Schneider, senior vice president and general manager for HIT Entertainment, which owns the rights to Thomas & Friends, was also enthused about the opening of Thomas Town, as he was the one who pioneered the partnership with Six Flags to open the new area of the park, according to information released by Six Flags New England.

"We have found a perfect fit with Six Flags who has a promise to provide quality entertainment," Schneider said.

According to information released by Six Flags New England, Schneider expressed his overwhelming support for Thomas the Tank Engine to come alive at Six Flags when he stated, "This beloved character [Thomas the Tank Engine] has engaged and inspired preschoolers' imaginations for more than six decades and will certainly offer a rich, exciting world for children and their parents to enjoy, as families look for more ways to spend quality time together."

Furthermore the overall feeling during the grand opening of Thomas Town was not only the happiness of the children in their new play land, but also the growing magnetism of the region as a whole.

"We're always trying to have people come to Western Massachusetts and the Berkshires," Rosemary Sandlin, State Representative (D-Hampden) said. "We're here today to highlight this crown jewel in this area."

For all those wanting to experience Thomas Town this summer, the new area is currently open at not only Six Flags New England but also Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo, in the northern California.