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Crowds head back to Legoland

September 9, 2011 | 11:59 am

Click here for more photos of the blackout. Visitors were back in force Friday at the Legoland theme park, which was expecting a burst in attendance from San Diego-area families whose children had the day off from school.

Among the visitors were Fina and Brad Arnold of Pasadena, who brought their three sons and daughter to the Carlsbad theme park for a quick vacation on Thursday.

They were in line for a boat ride Thursday afternoon when the power failed about 3:30 p.m.

PHOTOS: Blackout leaves millions without power

"Everything stopped," said Fina, a 41-year-old nurse, and the family could see one roller coaster stalled high above the park. "We were thanking God that our kids weren't on that ride."

With the bustling park at a standstill, the family spent about $20 on old-school carnival games that only require throwing balls at targets, not electricity, before leaving for the day.

They tried to check into a hotel, but couldn't even get inside because the electronic doors weren't working. They ended up at a park, eating a packed lunch of fruit, bread and cheese. At one point the father joked they would have to sleep under the stars.

"It was just comical," said Brad Arnold, 43, a minister. "It was like, what's next?"

They eventually found lodging at a motel and returned to Legoland Friday to use complimentary tickets given to them by the theme park.

This time they came prepared with provisions: plenty of water and food in coolers, should the power go out again.

"You've gotta be prepared when you come to Legoland," Brad Arnold said. "That's what we learned."

Dozens of other park patrons had to be rescued from rides that stopped in their tracks when the power went out.

A family of four had to be taken down from a car on the Lego Technic roller coaster when the ride came to a halt four stories above the ground. Nineteen people were evacuated from the Dragon coaster, but that ride and most others were near their loading areas when the power failed, spokeswoman Julie Estrada said.

Suzanne Hardy, 48, was visiting Legoland from San Francisco with her husband, 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter when the power went out in their San Diego hotel, the Hilton Bayfront.

Their room was on the top floor of the hotel, so they got their exercise trudging up and down the stairs as the elevators were out of commission.

"It was better than going to the gym," Hardy said.

But most guests gathered in the hotel lobby, where staff opened the doors to cool the place down, handed out flashlights and glow sticks, served a picnic dinner and lighted gas fireplaces. People that would have been tucked away in their rooms sat around the fire and socialized and interacted.

"They were actually talking," Hardy said.

Worried that her children would be scared with all the lights out, Hardy tried to inject a little humor into the ordeal and give a little history lesson.

"I told them that 100 years ago that's the way things were; nobody had electricity," she said. "My parents taught me how to make fun out of any kind of crisis."


FULL COVERAGE: Southern California blackout

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-- Tony Barboza in Carlsbad

Photo: Legoland visitors stand in line in March. Crowds returned to the theme park Friday after a power outage on Thursday. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times