NCL Free At Sea

Coaster Con 2014 Day 2 At California’s Great America

By on 10/18/2014

I’m really embarrassed that I’m just now getting around to posting this, but I guess it’s better late than never. Back in June, I attended Coaster Con 2014, the annual national convention of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, or ACE. It was a full six day event, and I vowed to write about each day of the event. I did a full write-up of Coaster Con 2014 Day 1, but then I got sidetracked by life and never got around to the other five days…until now. This is Day 2 of Coaster Con 2014.

As the primary host park for the convention, we spent three days at California’s Great America. Day 2 was our first full day at the park and it started early. 6:00 am, to be exact. After staying in the park until after midnight the night before, there wasn’t a whole lot of sleeping.

After a nice big breakfast out on the midway, we were ready for our first event of the day. We attended the ribbon cutting for the California’s Great America History Museum. Cutting the ribbon was none other than Snoopy himself, with some assistance from CGA’s Vice President and General Manager, Raul Rehnborg:


The museum was very cool, with lots of memorabilia from the park’s past. The walls contained a timeline of all the major events of the park over the years. The centerpiece of the room was a scale model of Top Gun/Flight Deck that actually worked! The details were amazing. A small motor drove the lift hill and gravity did the rest. It was fun to sit there and watch the train go through the course over and over again:


There was even a fully restored Demon coaster car on display:


If you ever thought that OTSRs were simple devices, even on older coasters, think again:


In addition to the park’s history on the walls, there was also information on The Lost Parks of Northern California video series, which takes a look back at amusement parks that no longer exist. It’s a great series and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. A few of the people behind the Lost Parks series were on hand at the convention. From left to right; Kris Rowberry, Nicholas Laschkewitsch, Taylor Evans, and Robert Ingle:


One of the perks of a roller coaster convention like this is that you get the park all to yourselves, before it opens to the public. You also get to do things that aren’t normally allowed, like riding kiddie coasters without kids. Everyone wanted to get their Taxi Jam credit while they could. Check out how long this line is for Taxi Jam, and there’s not a single kid in it:


Like me, Kris Rowberry of Great American Thrills was very excited to finally get this credit:


Nicholas Laschkewitsch, of ACE NorCal, was rarely seen without all of his camera gear strapped to his body. In fact, with all that gear, it’s safe to say that he was barely seen at all:


Did you know that CGA had a time capsule? I sure didn’t. It’s due to be opened in 2152:


Time for a little flying lesson on the Flying Eagle’s. Kris was on my six. These are quite a bit of fun:


The highlight of this day was a coaster photography tour. We got to go behind the scenes in the backstage areas and take pictures of the coasters from places that most park guests can only dream of:


Is this close enough for you? We got up close and personal with the Flight Deck track on the water:


By this time the park was now open to the public and loaded trains started whizzing by us:


Our next stop was behind Vortex. There used to be a train at CGA that would circle the park, and the path that we took used to be where the train would cut through that area:


From this spot, we could practically reach out and touch the Vortex track:


Right on cue, a Vortex train came racing past us with that deep B&M roar:


Up and over, in and out, and around and around she goes:


We next headed back through the park and over to Gold Striker to continue our tour:


Authorized Personnel Only? Don’t mind us…we’re with the band:


These structures always seem taller to me when you’re standing directly underneath them:


We headed inside the coaster and towards the back turnaround:


We didn’t even get all the way in before the first train came zipping by and everyone whipped their cameras out as fast as they could to get a shot:


I couldn’t resist taking a selfie of me literally inside the structure with the track running overhead:


The only downside to a coaster photography tour is the long wait between trains:


Here’s a unique shot of Demon’s loop that I bet a lot of you don’t have:


As rough as this ride is, you still see lots of big smiles as it takes that first big drop:


Hmmmm…I wonder what’s in here:


And now you know how the Demon got its name. It eats roller coasters:


These people were lucky. They were able to escape out the backside before he swallowed them:


On our way back to the inside of the park, there was a great shot of the first drop on The Grizzly. Unfortunately, we were a big crowd on a small service road and couldn’t stop long enough to wait for a train come over the top:


This reminds me of my old high school. We had lots of zombie-like people walking around:


Remember that train I told you about, that used to circle the park? These tracks are some of the only remaining evidence that it ever existed:


We re-entered the park just behind the Eagle’s Flight station in the very back of the park:


CGA has some really pretty and serene scenes all around, you just have to keep your eyes open:


It’s fun walking through a park when all of a sudden unexpected song breaks out from above:


During my first CGA trip report from 2013, I took a picture in front of the entrance to The Consulate. This was originally a private retreat for the Marriott family when both Great America parks were being designed back in the 1970’s. Over time, it morphed into a private/exclusive club for VIPs, celebrities, and private events. I made the comment back then that one day I hoped to get a peek inside. That day finally arrived, as we were allowed in to take a look around.

Upon entering The Consulate, you see a modest living room, complete with a television and furnishings that are very dated and definitely from the 70’s:


Since the space is typically used for hosting events, there is one room that is quite open, with the exception of some chairs that line the perimeter:


It’s basically just like a small apartment, complete with a kitchen. The dining room table is quite large and often used as a conference room table for internal park meetings:


I couldn’t resist taking a selfie out on the balcony. This is where the singers were earlier:


The tour then moved on to the Redwood Amphitheater. I had no idea this outdoor venue was even here. It has around 8,500 seats and hosts quite a few musical events:


Being up on stage makes it easy to bring out your inner rock star performing for the fans:


Behind the stage is Redwood Depot, former train cars converted to office space:


We took another shortcut backstage, passing underneath a different part of Vortex:


We walked right past the old station for Tidal Wave/Greased Lightnin’. This was a Schwarzkopf shuttle loop coaster that ran from 1977 to 2002:


These are some of the remaining supports for Greased Lightnin’:


We walked by an open door of a warehouse where a brand new Halloween Haunt maze was being built. By the time you read this, the maze will have been completed and you may have even already gone through it:


Next up was a tour of the entertainment venues that CGA has to offer. The first stop was the Great America Theater, where the amazing Aerial Ice Extreme show was playing:


The stage is an honest to goodness ice rink! The elevated sections are actually covered in a synthetic ice material, but everything else is real ice. This is looking in from stage right:


This is a view from stage left, looking out over the audience:


We then moved over to the Showtime Theater, which was another large performance space:


This was the stage backdrop for their current production, On Broadway:


We exited out the back of the theater, getting another unique perspective of Flight Deck:


I think the brand new red paint job was just gorgeous against that clear blue sky:


This is a great B&M invert and a lot of fun to ride with all the twists and turns:


CGA used to have a massive IMAX movie theater called Pictorium. It’s the large building that you see behind Gold Striker, but it’s no longer used to show movies. As you can see, the huge IMAX screen isn’t even on the wall anymore:


The theater seats approximately 1,000 people, but today it’s primarily used for blocking the Gold Striker noise from the neighbors, and for storing old junk:


It’s also the home of the indoor portion of the Dia de Los Muertos Halloween Haunt maze. All of the panels you see stacked up are what make up the outdoor portion of the maze:


Every year at Coaster Con, there is a photo contest. People submit their best coaster photos, which are anonymously displayed, and us convention attendees vote on them. The winner gets a nice prize. It was really hard because there are so many amazing photos to choose from:


The water park tour took us backstage and showed us what it takes to push all that water around:


As expected, there are some serious pipes running all over the place:


The pumps are located deep in a pit that had to be dug out of the ground:


I was told that this funky looking support had to be custom built to provide enough clearance for a coaster (Stealth?) that used to run though here:


If you were a fan of the Manteca Waterslides, that were located in Manteca, CA for 30 years from 1974-2004, then you don’t need to go any further than CGA to relive a bit of that history. Two of the slides were relocated to CGA and are still in operation today:


If you want more history on the Manteca Waterslides, be sure to check out the Manteca Waterslides episode of The Lost Parks of Northern California.

Our last stop on the water park tour was a peek behind the Great Barrier Reef Wave Pool:


As we passed by the front, they were setting up for our dinner later that night:


A view from the other end of the pool looking back. That’s a lot of water:


The wave pool has the ability to generate a multitude of wave sizes and patterns, but the park typically uses just one. They’re all programmed from this rather unassuming looking control box:


As with the other pools, the wave pool pumps were located way down in a pit:


Mmmm…free candy! These were actually ear plugs as some of the machinery was quite loud:


The facilities and maintenance tour took us into the coaster shop. This is where they refurb our favorite rides by stripping them all the way down to individual pieces and either rebuild or replace them. The shop was very clean and very slow. It was the start of summer and everything had already been refurb’d and was out in the park for our enjoyment:


Just outside the shop was a mountain of used coaster wheels and pallets of used lift hill chains. Anyone who wanted a coaster wheel was allowed to take one, but they were greasy and filthy, so I passed. The metal carts are what the individual coaster cars are mounted to while they’re being worked on, just like you saw in the previous photo. There is a different size/shape of cart for every coaster car in the park:


After all of the backstage tours were over, it was time for dinner. We had a delicious Australian-themed dinner on the shores of the Great Barrier Reef (Wave Pool):


We were also treated to some live entertainment, as the Peanuts gang brought their Party in the Plaza to us to enjoy while we ate our dinner:


The wave pool was also started up and anyone who wanted to swim could. Only one guy got in:


It’s not a selfie. It’s a picture of part of the table center piece:


After dinner, the park was now closed to the public and we had the entire thing to ourselves from 9:00 pm to midnight. We could ride anything we wanted, no waiting. Coasters, flat rides, and more coasters. We were even allowed to ride the up charge attractions for free:


As it was now around midnight, after another very long day, a friendly race around Thunder Raceway was going to be my last ride of the night. A group of local NorCal ACEers were kind enough to take me under their wing and let me hang with them at their local park. From left to right: me, Taylor Evans, Cody McAllister, Nicholas Laschkewitsch, Kris Rowberry, and Robert Ingle:


That’s it for Day 2 of Coaster Con 2014. Tomorrow is another 6:00 am start and it’s going to come quick. I promise not to take another 4 month to get Day 3 posted, but don’t hold me to that! 😉


  1. James

    10/18/2014 at 10:07 pm


    • Scott C

      10/19/2014 at 9:56 am

      If you feel this way, why bother reading/commenting on it?
      What is the website for your blog?

  2. Eric

    10/18/2014 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for the report. I really need to go to a Coaster Con sometime.

  3. Casey

    10/19/2014 at 1:48 am

    Wow, that’s great! How did you sign up for this/get tickets for it?

  4. enoc garcia

    10/19/2014 at 1:29 pm


  5. RollerCoasterCentral

    10/19/2014 at 4:37 pm

    Wow that looked like a TON of fun.

  6. Kris Rowberry

    10/19/2014 at 7:16 pm

    It was an absolute blast to experience Coaster Con with you, Kurt! Definitely an unforgettable week.

  7. James

    10/19/2014 at 10:32 pm


  8. Ryan O'Neill

    10/19/2014 at 11:59 pm

    That photo of Demon’s loop is incredibly artistic and beautiful! Is there a high-resolution version of it? It would make a great computer wallpaper 🙂

    I’m going to CGA for my first time on Saturday, and this has me even more excited. I’ll only be there a few hours, so which of the coasters are must-rides?

    • Scott C.

      10/20/2014 at 7:08 am

      Gold Striker and Flight Deck are the best, IMHO. Their mouse coaster is pretty good as well.
      If you like Disk-Os, they have a good one. The drop ride, while not as high as Lex, is fun! Great view of the football stadium.

  9. Sarah

    10/20/2014 at 5:17 pm

    Awesome report Kurt. I was there to experience it as well, just didn’t the do the tour of the old Marriott home et al.
    I also love that your spelling is superb, as I am a spell checker/proofreader.

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