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updated: 8/10/2012 5:05 PM

Whizzer at Six Flags Great America named landmark coaster by American Coaster Enthusiasts

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  • The American Coaster Enthusiasts honor the Whizzer Roller Coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee with the ACE Roller Coaster Landmark award. The coaster was built in 1976 and still remains operable.

       The American Coaster Enthusiasts honor the Whizzer Roller Coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee with the ACE Roller Coaster Landmark award. The coaster was built in 1976 and still remains operable.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • American Coaster Enthusiasts representatives Jeff Peters, of Salem, Wis., left, and Scott Heck, of Sheboygan, Wis., unveil the landmark plaque Friday near the Whizzer's entrance at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.

       American Coaster Enthusiasts representatives Jeff Peters, of Salem, Wis., left, and Scott Heck, of Sheboygan, Wis., unveil the landmark plaque Friday near the Whizzer's entrance at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Whizzer's landmark day

 
 

The Whizzer has finally received its just reward.

On Friday, the American Coaster Enthusiasts honored the 36-year-old steel ride with the ACE Roller Coaster Landmark award, marking it as the second at Great America to receive that status.

During a brief ceremony in front of the coaster, ACE unveiled a special plaque that was mounted at the Whizzer for all park-goers to see.

The iconic steel coaster, designed by engineer Werner Stengel and manufactured by the legendary Anton Schwarzkopf, is the last remaining large, steel, custom-built Schwarzkopf "Speedracer" coaster in North America.

"Rides like the Whizzer give theme parks character," ACE President Dave Altman said during the ceremony. "It's great that a park like Great America can preserve a ride like this for all generations to share."

It was originally named Willard's Whizzer after Marriott founder J. Willard Marriott when the park opened as Marriott's Great America in 1976. The name of the roller coaster was shortened to Whizzer in the 1980s.

Hank Salemi, Six Flags Great America Park president, said park officials explored the idea of removing the Whizzer to make room for Superman: The Ride in 2003. However, coaster enthusiasts from Illinois and across America started an email campaign to save the ride from destruction.

"Ask people who live here and many will say their first roller coaster ride was on the Whizzer," Salemi said. "I feel like we have accomplished preserving history with the Whizzer. Not just roller coaster history, but also theme park history."

Altman added the ACE Landmark Coaster designation is a rare and coveted award, and only a small number of coasters have earned the status in the amusement park industry. The Whizzer joins Batman the Ride as the two at Great America with the distinction. Batman was named a Landmark ride in 2005.

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