First Visit Date and Memories

General discussion about Marriott's GREAT AMERICA
User avatar
JW65
Tidal Wave
Posts: 229
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 10:26 am
Location: Chicago NW Suburbs

First Visit Date and Memories

Post by JW65 » Tue Sep 13, 2005 12:20 pm

Okay, a new thread has begun! Think way back to when you first went to MGA, GA, PGA, or SFGAm. Feel free to post the location, date, and your memories about that first visit. Mine is listed below. You could use the following format:

PARK: MGA, Gurnee

YEAR: Summer of 1978

MEMORIES: I would have been 13 this particular summer. Thinking back, it is surprising that my parents didn't take my brother and me to MGA the first summer it opened. We made this a weekend trip. I grew up in Elgin, Illinois, which is about an hour away from the park, so the drive wouldn't have been long. I recall that we stayed at a Holiday Inn near the park. I have pictures of my brother and me in the pool at the hotel. I recall eating at a restaurant in Gurnee. It was a fast-food place, but I am not sure which one, maybe Arby's.

We got to the park early. It wasn't open yet. I remember standing in line to enter. There was a lot of anticipation, that's for sure! The first sight of the Columbia was awesome! It seemed like the layout of the park was HUGE! There were so many places to explore. I have memories of riding Delta Flyer, Southern Cross, Sky Trek Tower, Columbia, Whizzer, Sky Whirl, Loggers Run, among other rides that first visit. My parents would have only been in their early 30s, but they did not go on many of the rides. One of the most vivid memories I have was waiting in line to ride the Turn of the Century. The line was LONG!!! I had to ride with another "single" rider since my brother was too short and neither one of my parents would ride it. When I got off the coaster I remember thinking "I had survived!" At the time, I had never ridden on a coaster like TOTC, so I couldn't compare it to another. My father enjoyed the games and he won two stuffed bugs bunnies. One for me and one for my brother. I remember going into a few of the gift shops and looking at artisan creations such as homemade candles. I bought a leather belt in the leather shop during that visit.

We went to County Fair and had lunch at Farmer's Market. Later, we probably ate chicken at Maggie Brown's Boarding House for our dinner.
Last edited by JW65 on Wed Sep 14, 2005 8:05 am, edited 3 times in total.

Santa Cruisin
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 65
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 7:04 am
Location: Santa Cruz, California

Post by Santa Cruisin » Tue Sep 13, 2005 12:58 pm

PARK: MGA, Santa Clara

YEAR: March of 1976

I went about a week after MGA opened. I was 16 at the time. I remember it being in the middle of nowhere and was very barren. You could see quite a few of the rides from outside the park. That morning, my parents dropped me off. I rode every ride except the kiddie rides and saw the Music America! show at the Grand Music Hall. I ate the chicken meal at Maggie Brown's for lunch and snacked at other places I can't remember. I do remember saving my last ride for the Turn of the Century as I worked up the courage to finally ride it (inversions on coasters were rare back then). From that point I knew I would be returning again and again going with family and friends on future visits.

After Marriott sold, I became less interested, not because of quality, but moving on to other things at the time.

User avatar
redfishpaw
Tidal Wave
Posts: 510
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 9:58 am
Location: Milwaukee
Contact:

Post by redfishpaw » Wed Sep 14, 2005 6:07 am

I Remember riding the Gulf Goaster in Gurnee, which only ran in 1976.
I would have been 8 that year. Traffique Jam was one of my favorites, and so was the flumes. When I was young, I had always thought that it would be cool to work on the Yankee Clipper. Little did I know, that I would actually do just that in 1985

User avatar
jonrev
Tidal Wave
Posts: 428
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2005 12:42 pm
Location: Grayslake, Illinois
Contact:

Post by jonrev » Wed Sep 14, 2005 4:25 pm

1997

I remember riding Whizzer is the big thing, I remember the Special FX movie in the pictorium and the WB Wild West Show in the SWT Theatre.
Last edited by jonrev on Wed Oct 12, 2005 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Gurnee Ride Op - 2007

User avatar
coasterfan71555
Gulf Coaster
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jul 22, 2005 7:06 pm
Location: Evanston, IL

First Visit to Marriott's Great America

Post by coasterfan71555 » Wed Sep 14, 2005 8:31 pm

I remember the date clearly. It was June 21, 1976, about 3 weeks after the Gurnee park first opened. I remember it was a beautiful sunny day, and I went with a dear friend of mine from high school (we had graduated in 1973) and a friend of hers who she was sweet on. I was so impressed with the beauty of the Columbia carousel, and remember how small the trees around the reflection pool were at that time. There was very little shade in the first few years. We rode Willard's Whizzer (my first coaster ride as an adult) and it scared the daylights out of me. I rode with my eyes closed! I remember we also rode Turn of the Century, which I also rode with eyes closed and was quite frightened there too. A ride on the Sky Whirl made my stomach queasy that day. We had lunch at Maggie Brown's Boarding House (fried chicken). We also rode Loggers Run, Yankee Clipper, and the Delta Flyer/Eagle's Flight. The park was very crowded, and it was a weekday. We purchased our tickets at a Jewel food store, and I think they were $7.95 each! We did have a great time. We saw the show "Music! America!" at the Grand Music Hall. There was a live band playing the music, and I remember how impressed I was with the singing and dancing, as well as the lighting and colorful costumes. This was like nothing I had ever seen before. I am sure we saw the show in Theatre Royale which had to be a Looney Tunes show. Marching bands were walking around the park. We rode the trolley cars and the train as well. I also believe we rode the Spinnaker in Yankee Harbor, and definitely the Columbia Carousel. The park was spotlessly clean, and it was a wonderful day! It truly was "the country of fun, for everyone"!!!:D
What a day, what a place! What a smile on my face! My first visit was June 21, 1976, when I was less than a month from turning 21!

User avatar
twixmix0303
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 10:47 pm
Contact:

Post by twixmix0303 » Thu Sep 15, 2005 4:26 pm

jonrev wrote:1997

I remember riding Whizzer is the big thing, I remember the special FX movie in the pictorium and the WB Wild West Show in the SWT Theatre.
Whizzer was the big thing? I would think Batman was a much bigger deal.

User avatar
JW65
Tidal Wave
Posts: 229
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 10:26 am
Location: Chicago NW Suburbs

Post by JW65 » Thu Sep 15, 2005 7:58 pm

If you are going to post in this thread, please only post the date and memories YOU have for your first visit to GA.

User avatar
twixmix0303
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 10:47 pm
Contact:

Post by twixmix0303 » Thu Sep 15, 2005 9:35 pm

Wow...sorry for posting something to add to the discussion. Next time I'll keep my mouth shut. :roll:

takencue
Buzzy Bee
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:51 pm
Location: Connecticut

So many memories

Post by takencue » Wed Oct 12, 2005 12:36 am

I was in awe of the place (Gurnee) and just a kid when it opened. We lived 2 miles away. Visited the park while it was being built... dad snuck me inside as a favor to his son. Was there on opening day (crowds didn't come, rain did). Later, my first date was there; so was my first break-up!

Several of my family members worked there as did many friends. A friend worked in show ops and used to sneak me (and a date/friend) in every day with the marching band that would perform from some local school.... way before season's passes I was lucky enough to go daily.

I remember riding "Loggers Run" 35 times. Had 20 friends of mine try to set a record and pile on what I think was called Tijuana Taxi's (old time cars on a zig-zag track where the rapids ride is now) and flatten two tires.

On the cool factor, I've been there in winter (drove my car on the "walkways" in the snow -- it was serene), did TV specials from the park, and shot/road the Eagle for Media Day. The TV work I did there was among the work on a demo reel that helped me in the early days of my career in television!

So "Marriott's" (as we used to call it) carries memories of family, girfriends and career-- all have a place in my heart. I went to SC park in the '90s' (lived in Bay Area for 10 years) but it didn't have the charm-- agree with many in the posts that it seemed "neglected." As a kid, I used to envy SC since all the postcards, commercials were primarily shot there.

I returned to Gurnee with my little boy a couple of years ago. Dispite the rain, it still held meaning and was a nice time. It's not all that bad of a place, though not somewhere I'd hang out every day if I were a teen again.

Candidly, it wasn't as bad as I'd feared but it didn't feel as special. It's not the level from when Marriott had it (I recall cleaning people everywhere in the 70's/80's.) Maybe it's not the kids but the culture that's changed.

Novelty is gone and we live in a high stimulation age. It used to be a place college kids competed to work (and try to get "discovered" by being in a show). Odd though it may seem, season's passes seemed to change things as well. I recall the first few years it was a big deal to get one... that most people didn't go more than 1-2x/year so this changed the culture a bit.

My recent visit made me feel like there wasn't anything special about being able to go... other than it was a day most people could work out there plans. Again, the novelty is gone. You don't usually appreciate something the same when you have access to it all the time.

I imagine my grandparents felt about the change in old dance halls the way I do about the early days at park-- an era that lives in my minds. I hope it won't one day will become rundown like Riverview (my mom's favorite amusement park in Chicago that's long gone).

My earliest memories are from two long gone parks called Hawthorn Melody (Libertyville, IL) and Adventureland (Addison, IL)... both nostalgic and slower paced 60's/70's parks. Both closed beacuase of progress-- mostly because of Marriott. Both were in disrepair.

One day that will probably happen to Great America, but in the meatime it's there and waiting-- and people like us can impact the tone of the park. Vote with your wallet by going and things can change. And if you act now, I bet you'll even get a discount on a season's pass for next year!

jm

Since you've been kind enough to read all of this, I'll endeavor to find some old gems: Have two scrapbooks of photos and newspaper clippings from the final year of construction through first five years of operation. We had a video camera in the late 70's, so I have old Betamax videos from early years somewhere-- prob starting '78.

one last memory: I recall them buldozing homes (and moving one) to make the entrance. Rumor was that Morman reps came in and bought the entire block in one day-- cash. Anyway, I'm swamped with enough work that I can't work nearly as fast as a 70's Morman so it may take some time, but I'll post eventually.
Attended every Gurnee opening day first 10 years. Grew up 2 miles from MGA. Dad used to say I "worshiped" the place.

User avatar
JW65
Tidal Wave
Posts: 229
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 10:26 am
Location: Chicago NW Suburbs

Post by JW65 » Wed Oct 12, 2005 7:43 am

Loved reading your post, TAKENCUE.

User avatar
Shockwavegirl
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 55
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 3:53 pm

Post by Shockwavegirl » Wed Oct 12, 2005 12:09 pm

Park: MGA Gurnee/may even have been around the time Six Flags bought it, but the Marriotts logos were still there

Year: 1984

I was only 4 so I have forgotten most of it....tell you the truth, I think it's amazing I remember at all. But I remember that was the year that White Water Rampage opened, and I was just to small to ride...by like a hair. So I had to wait in the station with the attendant while my mom and brother went. That's all I remember from that trip, but the next year we went I was tall enough for Eagle and Demon(not that you were getting my chicken little butt on them, though not from lack of trying on my mom's part) We went with my Aunt and Uncle and cousin from North Carolina who were visiting us. And my mom's mean boyfriend who all but dragged my on Whizzer and my brother wouldn't let me sit with my mom and I ended up sitting with said mean boyfriend who MADE me hold my arms up when all I wanted to do was hold on to the car and cry. Butthead had me TERRIFIED of coasters. In fact in all the years we went I NEVER went on a coaster until the summer I started working there. My friend Brad dragged me on Viper then Eagle, and later that year my mom made me go on Demon....from then on I became the coaster freak I am today.

User avatar
jonrev
Tidal Wave
Posts: 428
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2005 12:42 pm
Location: Grayslake, Illinois
Contact:

Post by jonrev » Wed Oct 12, 2005 1:36 pm

twixmix0303 wrote:
jonrev wrote:1997

I remember riding Whizzer is the big thing, I remember the special FX movie in the pictorium and the WB Wild West Show in the SWT Theatre.
Whizzer was the big thing? I would think Batman was a much bigger deal.
It was the big thing I remember from that trip.
Gurnee Ride Op - 2007

User avatar
JW65
Tidal Wave
Posts: 229
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 10:26 am
Location: Chicago NW Suburbs

Post by JW65 » Fri Jan 20, 2006 2:38 pm

These are great! :P Anyone else remember that very first time you visited MGA in Gurnee or Santa Clara? Feel free to describe it here.

pattis
Gulf Coaster
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 8:47 am
Location: Columbia Falls, Montana

Post by pattis » Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:30 pm

My earliest memories of MGA are rather interesting. Actually, early-mid 70's i was in 4H, lived in Milwaukee area. Our 4H group was on an outing to museum in Chicago. On the way there (the following month we were going to Dandilion park) An adult chaperone told us that it might be the last time we would go there because there were rumors of a large amusement park that was to be built between Milw. and Chicago. I thought that was so awesome, i remember asking my parents all the time if it was really going to be there and when. (I probably drove them crazy) Finally my Dad told me that it ws not true. I think i cried for a few days. One day my parents decided we would just go for a drive to Racine, kept going a little farther and my Dad drove on some back roads and stopped and told me to look out the window off a ways. All I remember was this huge rollercoaster, i was so so excited( ah, the innocence of a child). Park was not even finished yet. I dont remember my first visit though. I think i did not actually get there until 78. But yes, it was magical. I think the first thing that made my heart beat was the beautiful carousel.

User avatar
that_guy
Tidal Wave
Posts: 482
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:10 pm
Location: Pacific Grove, California

Post by that_guy » Thu Jan 26, 2006 4:07 pm

Nice memories! Do you remember the Coaster you saw?

Post Reply