California’s Great America

Marriott’s Great America, built by hotel and restaurant operator Marriott Corporation, opened to the public on May 20, 1976. Less than two weeks later on May 29, the company opened a second Marriott’s Great America – later known as Six Flags Great America.

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The park, though profitable, was still an earnings disappointment for Marriott, leading the company in 1983 to explore options to sell. An interested party, Caz Development Co., appraised the land value at US$800,000 to $1 million per acre. Marriott also involved the city of Santa Clara in negotiations, which was already leasing 55 acres (22 ha) of parking space for the amusement park. The city eventually acquired the park for $93.5 million from Marriott, which retained 20 acres (8.1 ha) from the sale for development. Caz Development settled and was allowed to build a hotel and office near the park, which the city renamed Great America. Kings Entertainment (Kings Island and Kings Dominion for example) Company, who owned and operated other amusement parks, was hired in 1985 to manage Great America for the city.

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Paramount acquired Kings Entertainment, and created Paramount Parks. Viacom, the parent of MTV Networks (including Nickelodeon), then bought Paramount in 1994, allowing Nickelodeon theming and merchandise into the park as well. During the Paramount era, attractions from the Action FX Theatre, Nickelodeon Splat City (later Nickelodeon Central), Drop Zone Stunt Tower, Invertigo, and many more modern thrill ride attractions were added in. In 2000, the park added the first flying coaster in the world to their coaster line-up, Stealth. Stealth was a Vekoma Flying Dutchman, and was extremely popular among guests. The park had to remove the fan-favorite in 2003 to make room for their in-park water park Boomerang Bay. Stealth got moved to Carowinds, also Paramount by that time, and has since recieved a make-over and is currently named Nighthawk.

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After Viacom and CBS Corporation split, Paramount Parks became part of CBS. The merger did not last long, as CBS announced plans to sell the theme park division.

In May 2006, it was announced that Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. would be acquiring the entire amusement park division from CBS. The transaction includes licensing agreements with Nickelodeon and Paramount, providing the park the option to retain its Nickelodeon and Paramount theming for several years.

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The park seemed to have had a hard time the last couple of years, with removal of Invertigo, and Cedar Fair wanting to sell the park. The last new coaster before Gold Striker opened in 2001, Psycho Mouse, and many were delighted to see the park add a new big ride in 2013. The park seems to be ready for the next couple of years.

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Below you’ll find a list with all current rollercoasters the park operates. Click on the name of the ride to get the statistics from RCDB.com .

  • Demon is an arrow looper, that started it’s life as ‘Turn of the Century’. The track got altered along the way to add a double loop into it, and got renamed Demon.
  • Flight Deck is a unique custom designed B&M inverted coaster. It has a relatively small layout, and is definetly one of the park’s major attractions. It used to be named Top Gun, with the Paramount License still active.
  • Gold Striker is the park’s newest addition, and is the longest wooden coaster in nothern CA. It is a GCI that had some noise problems, but these have been solved and the ride is running smooth. It is believed to be CA best wooden rollercoaster.
  • Grizzly is the park’s first wooden rollercoaster, and is believed to be rough now-a-days. It is still a fun classic woden coaster ride.
  • Psycho Mouse is the park’s wild mouse coaster made by arrow. This is one of the last arrow coasters to be opened.
  • Taxi Jam is a coaster for the younger visitors of the park.
  • Woodstock’s Express is too.
  • Vortex is the 2nd B&M coaster to be built. The ride is similar to Vortex from Carowinds, which opened as 3rd B&M, but has some significant differences in the track layout. Vortex is a stand-up coaster.

 

Invertigo. Inverted Vertigo…

For our 3rd Throwback Thursday we have Invertigo.

Invertigo is a suspended Vekoma Boomerang Model (Vertigo) having riders sit with their backs to one another facing the other riders at the same time. Invertigo looks like the regular Boomerang models when looking at the track layout. The only differences are in the train hanging under the track, the height, and the looping exits on the opposite side.

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Invertigo was located next to the park’s first woodie, Grizzly, and has had some operational errors making people believe that’s one of the main reasons the ride was closed and left. Invertigo was blue(supports) with yellow(track). The top speed of this machine was 50 MPH, and it stood a 131 ft. tall. The ride went through the Cobraroll and Looping both forwards and backwards (like every other boomerang model similar to this from Vekoma). The coaster is known for being powerful as the train isn’t only suspended but also has a max. amount of G’s of 5. The ride’s duration is about 1:30 minutes.

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Invertigo came to California’s Great America in 1998, and closed at the end of the 2010 season. Invertigo is now located in Dorney Park, and is renamed and re-colored to become Stinger.Stinger_HomepageSlider

Dinner With Mrs. Knotts

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The original sign from Mrs. Knotts’s Fried Chicken from 1934, that has been refurbished over the years.

Since 1934, tourists and locals alike line up for a delicious dinner at Mrs. Knott’s Fried Chicken.  The restaurant opened in 1934 as a small five table tea room where Cordelia Knotts did all the cooking and her daughters waited tables.  Since its opening, the restaurant has served over 20 million guest.

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Mrs. Knotts Fried Chicken restaurant with Ghost Rider’s lift hill rising above it from behind.

The meal comes with a quarter fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, a salad, soup, biscuits, your choice of corn or spinach, and for desert, a slice of boysenberry or apple pie, or a scoop of boysenberry sherbet.  The restaurant also offers an all you can eat Sunday brunch.

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Many of the components that go into a chicken dinner at Mrs. Knott’s.

This Ride Got Jammed

 

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On March 26, 1997, Knott’s Berry Farm opened Windjammer Surf Racers.  The ride had two indepedent tracks, that raced each other. The park used wild mouse like trains, but a full length track. Many people complained of headaches due to the fact that the rides over the shoulder harnesses had no padding.

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The ride was themed to represent the southern california coastal lifestyle, complete with sand, palm trees, a life gaurd tower, and a mini lagoon. The photo booth for on ride pictures was inside a yacht.

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The ride had many technical problems and shortly after opening, and just weeks into operation, it broke down and Knott’s had to pay over 2 million dollars on repairs. In retaliation, Knotts sued TOGO, the ride’s manufacturer for 17 million dollars, claiming design flaws such as missaligned track, as well as problems of stalling in even slight breezes, which the park claimed to be a “joke”.

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Knotts lost the law suit, but it was such a publicity nightmare for TOGO, that it forced them to go out of buisiness. After spending 4 years to find a buyer for the coaster, with no luck, thepark dismantled it in 2001.

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The ride began with a 69 foot drop into a vertical loop at 40 miles per hour. After this, the tracks winded around each other and up and down small hills until it came to a stop.

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A year after the closing of this ride, Xcelerator was built in the same spot, giving Knott’s fans an all new coaster experience that you couldn’t experience anywhere else, since it was the first Intamin Accelerator Coaster.

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Gilroy Gardens: Smelling like a rose…

Although Gilroy is known for its garlic growing, the amusement park is sweet.

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Gilroy Gardens was founded by Michael and Claudia Bonfante after selling their Nob Hill Foods supermarket chain to build the park. The park was constructed gradually over a period of 25 years. Before it became an amusement park open to the public, it was known as Tree Haven, and was a commercial plant nursery, as well as a recreational facility for employees of Nob Hill Foods. The park opened to the public in June 2001 as Bonfante Gardens. The name was changed to Gilroy Gardens in February 2007. It features 19 rides, 27 attractions and six gardens.

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The park struggled with financial difficulty and low attendance the first two years it was open. It closed early for its first two seasons and the park’s management debated whether to open at all for the third season. Paramount Parks began to manage the park on contract starting with the 2003 season.

Gilroy Gardens now operates under the management of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which acquired Paramount Parks from CBS Corporation on June 30, 2006.

Some popular rides in Gilroy Gardens are:

  • Banana Split — Banana-shaped swinging ship ride.
  • Mushroom Swing — Mushroom shaped swing ride.
  • Timber Twister — Rattlesnake themed junior roller coaster
  • Garlic Twirl — Garlic-themed “tea cups” style ride.
  • Sky Trail Monorail — Monorail ride through Monarch Butterfly Greenhouse.
  • Paddle Boats — Duck shaped paddle boats.
  • Rainbow Gardens Boats — Raft ride though flower gardens.
  • Coyote & Redwood Railroad — Train ride around park perimeter.
  • Quicksilver Express — Mine-themed roller coaster.
Quick Silver Express is the only Mine-Train coaster ever built by Morgan, and is the park's top attraction.
Quick Silver Express is the only Mine-Train coaster ever built by Morgan, and is the park’s top attraction.

 

Montezooma’s Revenge

The Entrance to the Ride
The Entrance to the Ride

In our Throwback Thursday article on Deja Vu, we have been talking about Vekoma Boomerang Coasters. But often forgotten are the Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loops. Sadly today we only have 5 of these still in operation, and 1 is re-opening soon in Belgium. The only one in operation in the US is Montezooma’s Revenge here at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA.

Notice the orange/blue roller coaster passing through the center of the loop. (Jaguar)
Notice the orange/blue roller coaster passing through the center of the loop. (Jaguar)

Montezooma’s Revenge opened at Knotts Berry Farm on May 21st, 1978.  It is a Schwarzkopf  flywheel launch steel shuttle coaster. It continues to be one of Knott’s most popular rides. The ride was named Montezooma’s Revenge after a blue grass band with the same name that performed in shows at the park. Knott’s ride Jaguar opened in 1995, and part of the track passes right through the middle of Montezooma’s loop.  The shuttle-loop was repainted teal and yellow from its original yellow in 2002.  Knott’s installed the ride Pony Express in 2008 with a similar launch system. The ride starts with a forward launch at 55 miles per hour into a 72 ft high vertical loop, and into a 135 ft tower, that you then drop back wards from, back through the loop backwards, through the station, and into another 135 ft tower, that drops you slowly back forward and into the station in only 35 seconds.

The former yellow paint-scheme is to be seen here.
The former yellow paint-scheme is to be seen here.

The ride is a an incredible experience, but not worth a long line wait, and its best features are its launch into the looping and the looping backwards. You sit down in one of the seven cars which all hold 2 rows of two seats. You buckle your seat-belt and pull down the restraint (lap bar) and get launched through (which seems to be) a ring of lights into the first loop. Riders who are lucky will see Jaguar chase by while they’re in the loop. (Jaguar is another roller coaster at the park that goes through the center of MR‘s loop). The ride is exhilarating, and you do not want to miss out on it while in the park as long as there’s not a long line. Long lines often seem to not be worth it due to the fact that the ride-time is only 35 seconds. The ride is a an incredible experience, and its best features are its launch into the looping and going through the looping backwards.

Here the MR train shoots up 1 of the 135 ft towers.
Here the MR train shoots up 1 of the 135 ft towers.