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Kaleidoscope: Very sad news: Big Dipper coaster's demise nearing

Published: October 12, 2016 1:00 AM
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When the Big Dipper roller coaster at the former Geauga Lake Park was sold at auction after the park's closing in fall 2007, a spokesman for the anonymous buyer said he hoped to move the classic ride off the property.

But in the ensuing nine years, the 91-year-old wooden icon has rotted away and has become a nuisance, attracting unwanted trespassers to the property. Some have even attempted to climb up on the track.

Not a good idea, considering the weakened wood has become unstable, and climbers could plummet to serious injuries.

Thus, in recent days Cedar Fair has announced the roller coaster soon will succumb to the wrecking ball, and a piece of Aurora / Bainbridge Township history will be gone.

The plans bring sadness to many former patrons of Geauga Lake Park, and when the wrecking equipment moves in, I'm sure a lot of people will line up along Route 43 to check out the unfortunate activity.

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It is indeed sad to hear of the coaster's demise. I rode it several times after coming to this area and becoming editor of the Advocate in 1987. It's one of only a few wooden classics from its era.

Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin told me it was an emotional experience when she and a handful of other local government officials walked the amusement / water park grounds recently.

She noted some members of the group wanted to look inside the old ballroom, but Cedar Fair officials told them it was unsafe, and a peek inside would not be wise. That structure could disappear shortly, too.

The mayor said some wood from the coaster might be used as a future boardwalk around Geauga Lake, and the Aurora and Bainbridge historical societies will acquire some signage and other remaining park items.

Perhaps some day, when the property is redeveloped, a few vestiges of its past will be present to bring back memories of the past patrons.

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The Big Dipper dates to 1925, when the park -- which up until then was mainly a picnic grounds -- began adding amusement rides and attractions under the ownership of William Kuhlman.

The coaster originally was known as the Sky Rocket, then the Clipper and got its current name in the late 1960s when Funtime Inc. became the owner.

When it closed in 2007, it was Ohio's oldest operating coaster and the seventh oldest in the U.S., according to the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

John A. Miller designed the 2,680-foot long, 65-foot high "out and back" ride.

Miller designed about 140 roller coasters and contributed more than 100 patented technologies to the industry. The Sky Rocket was the nation's largest coaster when it opened.

The coaster has been in its current location for all of its 91 years. Since its closing, brush and trees have grown up around it, and a fence allows only the highest hills to be seen from Route 43.

The American Coaster Enthusiasts named it a "coaster classic" and a "coaster landmark."

With its days number-ed, we bid the much-loved Dipper farewell.

Email: klahmers@recorpdub.com

Phone: 330-542-9400 ext. 4189

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