Thursday, April 14, 2016
Can you believe that this is the 25th installment of Ken Martinez sharing his collection of vintage amusement park postcards? Wow! I am very appreciative of all of his time and effort, and I'm sure all of you are too. Today, Ken presents:
Marriott's Great America
The Marriott Corporation oopened up two theme parks almost simultaneously in 1976, just in time for the nation's bicentennial in both the San Francisco ZBay area and the Greater Chicago area. Originally three identical theme parks were planned, with the third park in Maryland, serving the DC area. While both started out nearly identical, they developed very differently as owners took over. The original themes of both parks were Carousel Plaza, Hometown Square, Midwest County Fair, Yukon Territory, Yankee Harbor, and Orleans Place. While the Gurnee, Illinois Park was surrounded by green tree-filled terrain, the Santa Clara park was built in the brown barren flat land just south of the San Francisco Bay. Today, the California park is owned by Cedar Fair and the Illinois park is owned by Six Flags.
The Columbia Carousel is a double-decker merry-go-round located at the entrance to the park, where it sits at the end of a reflective pool. Along with the Sky Whirl it gave the park a sense of grandness. I really loved this park (Santa Clara) as it's one of the few I actually visited very close to opening day and went constantly until the Marriott Corporation sold it. I consider Great America along with the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk home parks. The Columbia Carousel featured here was in Santa Clara, California.
The Sky Whirl was a Triple-Tree Ferris Wheel Intamin creation. Atop the 115 foot pylon sat a tree-like arrangement of three massive arms each holding a wheel with 12 passenger gondolas. While the wheels rotated, so would the entire tree rotate on the pylon to allow for a continuous load cycle. The tree would tilt to lower a wheel flat to the ground and load guests, then lift back up and rotate clockwise, then tilt again to lower the next wheel flat to the ground for the next group of guests. This cycle would continue all day long thus allowing two wheels to operate while one was loading. The entire ride lasted 17 minutes and offered great views of the park. This was one of my favorite attractions at the park because it looked so greand towering over the park. The ride also had a unique motor sound which could be heard around the park. The Sky Whirl featured here was in Santa Clara, California. Both Sky Whirls are now gone.
The Demon roller coaster was born out of the "Turn of the Century" roller coasters in both Great America parks. The ad campaign claimed the older coaster (Turn of the Century) became possessed by the Demon. This was my favorite coaster at the park until I eventually couldn't fit into the car because of the too tight OTS restraints on the Arrow coaster trains. It featured a fog tunnel, two loops through rock formations, a light tunnel and a corkscrew through a blood-red waterfall. The Demon shown here is in Gurnee, Illinois.
Hope you enjoyed your vintage visit to the Marriott's Great America parks.
Information Source Material:
The Great American Amusement Parks, copyright 1976 by Gary Kyriazi
Funland U.S.A copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko
Roller Coaster Database http://rcdb.com/
THANK YOU Ken Martinez!