When you think of Santa Cruz, odds are it’s image is one of the first you’ll conjure. And this weekend, the Grand Old Lady of Santa Cruz will celebrate a milestone birthday.
This Saturday, the Giant Dipper join only a small pantheon of rides in the world by turning 90 years old.
An icon of coaster-dom, the Giant Dipper harks back to a different era – the so-called, “Golden Age” of wooden coasters and parks, where everyone had to build a bigger, faster, more intense ride than their neighbors. And to think it was built for only $50,000 back in 1924…
Now, most people will inevitably say, “Well, if its 90 years old – that wood is all 90, too!” But, that’s simply not the case. The reason wooden coasters seem to last forever, is because they’re constantly being replaced, piece by piece. Odds are, none of the wood on the ride is original to 1924 – but it certainly adds to the mystique.
Around half a mile long, and only 70 feet high – the ride is dwarfed by others these days. In fact, a “lost park” in San Mateo bested the height of this coaster by ten feet, three years earlier. And yet – something about this ride makes it special. What is that “X” factor? Well, isn’t it obvious? Unlike the modern thrills of today (and nothing against them) but this ride has a soul…old in age, but perennially young at heart.
Countless celebrities have ridden the coaster, all with their own unique take on the thrill. Just walking up to the station provides riders with a glimpse back into what made this ride not only a local legend – but an international destination.
Featured in many films and countless advertisements, the Giant Dipper is one of only two roller coasters given the honor of National Historic Landmark (The other being the Coney Island Cyclone).
Those who have never ridden are always shocked by the kick thei old girl can dish out – and *SPOILER ALERT* that kick starts well before the lift hill! In turning 90, the ride is not only a survivor, it is also a legend. A defiant vestige of times gone by and never to return.
So how did this ride survive the Great Depression, two World Wars and thousands of minor (and one major) earthquake? It’s the ownership – the Canfield Family, specifically. They’ve owed the Boardwalk since there was a Boardwalk – and nostalgia has been their best souvenir. I’m glad to be among the ranks that get to enjoy this ride each and every year.
There’s not many things that different generations have enjoyed together. Thankfully, the venerable Giant Dipper is one that will continue to thrill millions, for generations to come.