Monsters have invaded Cedar Point, though Halloweekends is still months away.

Monster Trucks are parked along the midway at Celebration Plaza near the Iron Dragon entrance as the park hosts Monster Jam Thunder Alley through June 30.

The exhibit is part of a new partnership between Cedar Fair and Feld Entertainment, and Cedar Point is the first park in the country to play host to five of the Monster Trucks that compete across the country.

The trucks include Grave Digger, El Toro Loco, Megalodon, Max-D and Zombie.

Guests can pose for pictures by the giant trucks and even climb into the driver's seat of Grave Digger No. 8 for a photo.

Driver Adam Anderson, who with his father Dennis created the first version of the Monster Truck in 1982, said this is an exciting time for the sport that travels and competes in arenas across the country, including Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Anderson said the motor sport has a pretty big fan base and this exhibit will allow those fans to get up close and personal with the trucks.

Guests are escorted through a gate outside the park to the course that was built where a dorm for park workers once stood. They climb aboard one of two 10-passenger, newly built and specially designed Monster Trucks.

One is Megalodon, and the other is Grave Digger — No. 40 in the series for those of you keeping score at home. They are equipped with front-facing seats and are gasoline-powered. The competition trucks are much louder and are fueled by untainted methanol and hubris.

Like the drivers, passengers have to wear seat belts that have no fewer than four buckles and are pulled tightly to keep you from falling out. The trucks set off to navigate a dirt off-road course that includes a lot of bumps along the way, a series of doughnuts around a large tree and a trip over an actual school bus.

The ride is the real deal with the roar of the engine, the jarring of climbing over things and the smell of the exhaust fumes.

And best of all, it is included with your park admission.

Anderson said this is a chance to experience what he encounters every time he climbs aboard Grave Digger.

"When you sit in the truck, I want people to notice what they can see," he said. "You actually can't see much. So imagine driving in an arena and competing in one."

 

'A wild ride'

The drivers who are behind the wheel of the Freestyle Ride Truck Experience are professionals who have performed with Feld Entertainment in the past and practiced on the Cedar Point course for countless hours before it opened to guests last weekend.

Among them is Brandy Valdez, who drove a motorcycle as Black Widow among other characters in the Marvel Universe Live touring troupe.

Valdez said it takes a team of mechanics and skilled drivers to ensure the trucks are running at top performance on the competition circuit and on the course set up at Cedar Point.

She said the trucks are not equipped with a traditional speedometer but they "go fast enough to give a wild ride."

Guests will have the chance to experience what the Monster Truck drivers do, Valdez said, with one exception: Lake Erie pigeons, or gulls.

Valdez said she was surprised by the number of gulls on the course at any given time and they seem pretty much unfazed by the Monster Trucks as they roar past.

"We call them ninja seagulls," she said with a laugh.

Other attractions in the exhibit include the Monster Jam Garage where guests can touch the parts that are under the hood. This includes the big 645-pound tires and the oversized shocks and gears inside the transmission.

There is also the Monster Jam Pit Stop Play Area where kids can play with replicas of the trucks in a big sand box.

Juliette Feld Grossman, CEO of Feld Entertainment, said the company has been looking for ways to reach out to fans of Monster Trucks on a more personal level, and the partnership to bring the brand into amusement parks just made sense.

"We are excited to see how the fans respond," she said.

Among the goals of Cedar Point is to offer guests unique experiences, said General Manager Jason McClure, and riding aboard a real Monster Truck is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

They've also made an effort the past few seasons to offer limited-run events and experiences, McClure said, to add unexpected excitement.

"This gives more reasons for guests to want to visit throughout the year," he said.

 

Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.