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ACE Preservation Conference 2017: Part 3 – Six Flags Over Georgia – Continued


About a month later, on Friday, June 16, Six Flags Over Georgia celebrated the 50th anniversary of the day it opened, June 16, 1967. Since I was flying to Texas that day for Coaster Con XL, I decided to take the day off and attend the celebration that morning before my flight that afternoon.

Present that morning were all living SFOG Park Presidents except for John Odum, who arrived later in the day. It was a special day to see so many of the people that have shaped this park over half a century. Each one was introduced noting a ride that opened during their tenure. Present were current park president Dale Kaetzel, and former park presidents Melinda Ashcraft, Gene Weeks, Del Holland, John Bement, Errol McKoy and Spurgeon Richardson.

As noted above, John Odum arrived later in the day for a private part of the day’s festivities, so all living park presidents were present for the event.

Also Six Flags CEO John Duffey, before his retirement in July, was present and spoke.

Several recognitions were made on behalf of the Governor of the State of Georgia

and Cobb County.

 

Before the ceremony started I got to speak to Melinda Ashcraft,

the most recent past president

and I had a rather lengthy conversation with Errol McKoy, perhaps best known for championing the Great American Scream Machine.

He said that as a new, young park president, Six Flags founder and owner Angus Wynne asked him for suggestions of how to increase attendance once the newness had worn off. Mr. McKoy said that he had recently visited Coney Island and ridden the Cyclone, and that perhaps the tallest and fastest wood coaster could be marketed to bring the crowds in. Surprisingly, Mr. Wynne responded that he ever suggested that again, he would end his career. Mr. Wynne said Six Flags was about innovation, not looking back to yesteryear. The next year, Mr. Wynne and Six Flags parted ways and the new ownership asked Mr. McKoy the same question, to which he gave the same response about a wood coaster. The new owner asked if he would stake his career on it. Mr. McKoy replied that he would. The Great American Scream Machine debuted in 1973 as the tallest and fastest wood coaster in the world, and attendance rose by 350,000 that year, well beyond expectations. This ride along with Racer (PTC – John Allen, Racing Wood Coaster, 1972), sparked a new golden age of wood coasters. Soon other Six Flags parks were adding wood coasters as were parks all over the nation. Mr. McKoy staked his career on this and won. It was fascinating to hear this account firsthand.

 

I didn’t stay long that day as I had a flight to catch, but I am so glad I took the time to stop by for this special day. Thanks for reading!

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