NCL Free At Sea

Coaster Con 2014 Day 1 At California’s Great America

By on 07/27/2014

Coaster Con is the annual roller coaster convention and biggest event of the year for the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) roller coaster club. I have only been a member of ACE since the summer of 2011, and have attended a few of their smaller regional events, but Coaster Con 2014 at California’s Great America was my first time attending the big show. Residing on the west coast, I honestly haven’t been willing to spend the money necessary to attend a CoasterCon on the east coast without knowing what to expect. With Coaster Con 2014 being held just a few hours away from me, I knew this was my chance to finally check it out and I’m glad I did!

The last time Coaster Con was held in California was in 2002, but that was Southern California only. It’s been a whopping 20 years since CoasterCon made an appearance in Northern California, back in 1994, but even then it was split between Northern and Southern California parks. Coaster Con 2014 was held purely in Northern California, showcasing four very fun parks; California’s Great America, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and Gilroy Gardens. The event was held over the course of six days, from June 15-20th, so I’ll be posting a separate photo trip report for each day. This report covers the first day, June 15th, from California’s Great America.

The first day is mainly a registration day at the convention hotel. I drove up from Los Angeles, just over a four hour drive from my house, and arrived around noon. Since I have a brother that lives in San Jose, I was able to stay with him to save some money. I dropped my stuff off at this house and headed over to the convention hotel to pickup my registration packet. Everything you need for the week is included in the packet, including welcome letters, your name badge, park tickets, park maps, meal tickets, etc. Don’t lose it! I then headed over to California’s Great America (CGA), the primary host park, to get in some play time before Coaster Con 2014 officially kicked off there at 6:30 pm.

I arrived at the park around 3:00 pm, giving me lots of time to explore on my own before the convention formally started. CGA is a very beautiful park. This is the very first thing you see as you pass through the main gate:


It was only a few short steps later before I started seeing Coaster Con 2014 signs:


As luck would have it, I ended up taking the above sign home with me. I wasn’t going to at first, because it was so big, but then I realized that it would make a great souvenir from my very first Coaster Con. I have a huge space on my office wall where I hang all of my roller coaster memorabilia. I’m going to frame this sign and put it on my office wall.

Like most of my trips to CGA, I usually take a ride up the Star Tower before doing anything else, and this trip was no different. You get a great view of the park and can check out the crowds. As you can see, there really weren’t many people there on this Sunday afternoon:


The first drop of the Gold Striker roller coaster wraps around the Star Tower. That was my next ride:


If you’d like to learn more about this coaster, check out my full Gold Striker ride profile.

I hate to admit it, but I had never been on the Carousel Columbia before. That was definitely a selfie worthy occasion. In fact, I had almost the entire upper deck all to myself:


After the carousel, it was time for another roller coaster. The closest was Vortex, a first generation B&M stand-up. Many people don’t like this ride, because they think it’s too rough, so I was the only one on the train. I don’t think it’s that bad and actually rode it twice in a row:


I next hopped in a Delta Flyer sky bucket to take me to the rear of the park. You don’t see very many of these anymore, but I think they’re a great people mover with awesome views of the park:


Along the way, I get to see many fun flat rides that I don’t have at my home park in Los Angeles, like the Flying Eagles flying scooters, which I did ride:


I also took a spin on the Enterprise ride known as The Orbit:


I really enjoy their HUSS TopSpin known as Firefall, but I didn’t get a chance to ride it this trip:


Just look how pretty this park it with all the greenery and water:


Delirium is also another favorite of mine, but it was down for maintenance:


I am not too proud to admit that I rode the Pyscho Mouse and enjoyed it:


I think my most favorite flat ride at CGA is the Disk-O known as Tiki Twirl. One of these would fit quite nicely at Six Flags Magic Mountain where Déjà Vu used to sit:


The Grizzly was my next roller coaster. I’ve heard some complaints about this ride, but it’s not that bad. I don’t think it’s as rough as some people say, but I find the ride fairly mild. It doesn’t get my blood pumping very much. My only complaint is about the restraints. In addition to the seatbelt and the lap bar, there’s also a seatbelt for the lap bar. That’s way overkill for this ride and slows down the loading considerably because the lap bar seatbelt is a tight fit and doesn’t always cooperate:


Right before the park closed to the public for the day, I got to experience the Peanuts Party in the Plaza show in the Celebration Plaza. There was lots of music and dancing, and the little kids really got into it:


As closing time neared, a huge line started to form at the exit. This was a good thing for Coaster Con attendees, because we would soon have the park all to ourselves:


One of the Coaster Con 2014 perks was priority seating at one of their shows called Aerial Ice Extreme:


This very talented group of performers appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2013 and blew the minds of all fours judges. They’re back at CGA and their show is nothing short of impressive. The “Ice” part of their names come from the fact that the predominant part of the show has to do with ice skating:


While the primary skating surface is real ice, they do transition seamlessly to areas of the stage that are make up of artificial ice, or plastic. The raised portions of the stage, like in the above photo, are on the fake ice, but you cannot tell during the performance.

The “Aerial” portion of their name come from the fact that they incorporate aerial acrobatics into the performance. Your jaw will drop when you see what they can do hanging from ropes, rings, and even the big metal cube seen in the first photo:


Add in a couple of high-flying trampoline performers bouncing off the walls on the back of the stage and you get a very “Extreme” show. Aerial Ice Extreme is an amazing show and I highly recommend it:


It was now getting close to dinner time, which was the official start of Coaster Con 2014. Dinner was held in the not-yet-completed (or announced) Great America Pavilion. We had the honor of being the very first group to officially hold an event in the new facility:


A nice touch was table centerpieces made out of roller coaster wheels. At the end of dinner, each table had a contest to see who would get to take the wheel home:


They also had ice sculptures scattered around representing all the roller coasters in the park:


We had a very warm welcome from CGA’s VP and General Manager Raul Rehnborg:


As we were leaving the pavilion, we were presented with a couple of unique shots of Flight Deck:


It really stands out with its new red paint job and is very visible from the new football stadium next door:


After dinner, we were given a special performance of another one of their shows, On Broadway:


This was a fantastic show that highlighted Broadways hits of both the past and today:


The singing, dancing, and acting of the cast was awesome. This brought back some very fond memories for me and I had a smile on my face the entire time:


CGA is one of the home parks for a couple of my Northern California coaster buddies, and creators of the amazing The Lost Parks of Northern California video series, Kris Rowberry (Great American Thrills) and Nicholas Laschkewitsch (ACE NorCal Asst Regional Rep). They were very gracious in letting me hang out with them during the convention, and filling me in with lots of CGA park trivia and history:


After the On Broadway show, we were asked to hang out in the plaza right outside the theater, just in front of the Flight Deck entrance. We weren’t sure what was up next, but they were feeding us yummy snacks and hot chocolate, and we were all having a good time socializing, so it was all good:


As soon as it got a little bit darker – BOOM! Fireworks started to go off right over the top of Flight Deck. CGA put on a very impressive fireworks show just for us!! It was a very long and colorful show, and I was mesmerized as I watched it. You would probably expect me to say this was a perfect end to the evening, but it wasn’t even close to being over yet:


We now had the park to ourselves and Exclusive Ride Time (ERT) on many of the rides. Since we were right next to it, we got our road rage on and took over the Rue le Dodge bumper cars:


Of course, you can’t have exclusive, unlimited access to Gold Striker and not take advantage of it. What an awesome coaster! I lost track of how many times I rode this over the next couple of days:


We then made our way over to the Great American Theater where one of their make-up artists gave a demonstration on how they create the ghouls for their annual Halloween Haunt event:


This is not one of my Rue le Dodge victims. It’s ACE member Dan Sheffer after having “some work” done:


After the make-up demonstration, we were given a lights-on tour of one of their haunted mazes:


It’s amazing to me how fake this all looks in the light, but make it dark and fill it with scare actors and it can be terrifying! Nicholas, get that camera off the table! You don’t know where it’s been:


I spotted this guy backstage as we were leaving the maze and heading back to the park. Anyone know who he is? I’d love to hear the background:


As you may already be aware, CGA has some interesting noise challenges with its neighbors. That’s why you keep seeing more sound walls and styrofoam sheets being applied to Gold Striker, to try and minimize the sound it projects. CGA wanted to end our night with a disco party, but being around midnight, there was a concern about the noise it would make. Their ingenious solution? Silent Disco!

You heard me right – silent disco! It was just like any other dance party. There was a dance floor, a DJ, disco lights, and dancers. The only thing it was missing was the music. Sort of. Everyone had a pair of wireless headphones that was receiving the music. It was the funniest thing I had ever seen! I did not put on a pair of headphones, so as I was walking around, all these people were dancing, but it was dead silent. The headphones even had lights on the side that flashed and changed colors to the beat:


The guys wanted to test the range on the headsets, so up the Star Tower we went! Kris, Robert Ingle, and Cody McAllister were rockin’ the disco tunes as we went skyward. They worked! All the way up and all the way down, they never lost the signal:


It was now very late, around midnight, and after the long drive up from L.A. and an early start the next morning, it was time for me to head for home. I was beat!

This was only day one of six, and it wasn’t even a full day. This was just a teaser of what was to come, so look for overviews of the other days coming soon. Now that I finally got the overview of the first day out the door, I hope to get the rest out fairly quickly.

If you like what you see here, be sure to use the social media buttons below to share with your friends. I’ve also been doing a lot of posting on Instagram lately, so be sure to follow me there as well.


  1. A.M.99

    07/27/2014 at 11:37 pm

    Did you get the wheel?

    • The Coaster Guy

      07/28/2014 at 6:46 am

      Nope. I was second place. The guy who won it lived on the east coast. I told him he’d never get it on the plane, as it was way too heavy. I almost took it off his hands, but then he traded somebody else for a much smaller guide wheel. 🙁

  2. Henry

    07/28/2014 at 4:52 am

    Glad you enjoyed a Disk’O. When my home park, Cedar Point announced Pipe Scream and Lake Erie Eagles, I thought it was a bit kiddieish but after riding it, they are my new guilty pleasure ride!
    SFMM is definetly known for having a lack of flat rides and they could use a disk’o and flying scooters.
    I’m glad to see that there was a lot of fun during Coaster Con. I always go to North Coast Con and always enjoyed it.

  3. Scott C.

    07/28/2014 at 7:47 am

    Great review Kurt! The only thing missing was GA announcing that we had Fast Lane access the rest of our time there.
    I look forward to the rest of the recaps.

  4. Eric

    07/28/2014 at 4:05 pm

    I agree that a Disk-O would make a great addition to Magic Mountain. I rode the Frisbee at Marine World, er, Discovery Kingdom many years ago. It, too, would be a good addition to Magic Mountain’s lineup.

    Great America has a gem with their Von Roll skyride. I wish more parks would keep theirs. Those are fun rides and they do serve the purpose of moving people across a park.

  5. Isaac

    08/07/2014 at 8:38 pm

    How much does it cost to do the coaster con because im thinking of doing it

    • The Coaster Guy

      08/07/2014 at 9:03 pm

      You need to first join ACE if you’re not already a member. If memory serves, I think I paid about $240 for my CoasterCon 2014 registration. It varies a bit based on if you already have certain season passes or want to attend the banquet.

      • Isaac

        08/15/2014 at 7:58 pm

        Ok thanks i already have a season pass so it should help but i want to try it next year. How do i sign up to be in ACE? Hopefully i’ll finally get to meet you next year!

  6. Scott C.

    08/14/2014 at 5:00 pm

    I don’t have twitter, so hoping you see this in response to your tweet.
    Would love for you to continue with the CoasterCon story.
    Heading to the Mountain tomorrow. Hoping for lighter crowds, as I know some kids went back to school.

    • The Coaster Guy

      08/14/2014 at 5:57 pm

      I see everything! 😉 Yes, I plan to do all six days. I need more days in the week. Or to get fired. That’ll work, too. 🙂

      • Scott C

        08/14/2014 at 8:47 pm

        Awesome. Thanks Kurt.

  7. Pingback: Coaster Con 2014 Day 2 At California’s Great America - The Coaster Guy - The Coaster Guy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *