Six Flags Great America celebrates '40 Seasons of Thrills,' history (with video)

Provided photo
The Whizzer is one of the original three roller coasters at Six Flags Great America when it opened in 1976.
Provided photo The Whizzer is one of the original three roller coasters at Six Flags Great America when it opened in 1976.

GURNEE – Six Flags Great America is celebrating the park’s history with its “40 Seasons of Thrills” celebrations.

Now one of the largest theme parks in America with more than 80 rides, shows and attractions and Hurricane Harbor, a 20-acre water park, Great America had just three roller coasters at its May 29, 1976, opening.

One of those original rides – the Whizzer– remains popular today, Six Flags Great America President Hank Salemi said.

“We’re looking forward to a really special year. There’s so much going on at Six Flags Great America including the opening of Hometown Park with our brand-new kids rides,” Salemi said during a recent season opening celebration.

Those “brand-new” children’s rides actually are original rides brought back to a restored Hometown Park, recreating an area present when the park opened in 1976, said David Dahlman, Great America sponsorship coordinator.

As 2015 park-goers join the more than 100 million people who have passed through the Great America turnstiles, they’ll be treated to double rides on American Eagle, Columbia Carousel, Buccaneer Battle and Kidzopolis, Hometown Park and Camp Cartoon rides through Aug. 23, as well as on a different ride being spotlighted each week, according to a news release.

“The most important thing about Six Flags Great America is not only our past, but our future. As we continue to innovate, continue to grow, continue to do new things all the way up until last year, when we built the brand-new roller coaster the Goliath as the steepest, fastest and tallest wooden coaster on the planet,” Salemi said.

While the park does not feature any new roller coasters in 2015, it is adding daily shows of the Peking Acrobats – a troupe of Chinese tumblers, contortionists, jugglers, cyclists and gymnasts – who will perform at the Grand Music Hall in Hometown Square.

“It will be playing all summer long,” Salemi said.

The final part of the “40 Seasons of Thrills” celebration is Firework Fridays, which debut June 26 and continue through Aug. 7.

Great America steel roller coasters Whizzer, X Flight: Old vs. new (with video)

Great America wooden roller coasters American Eagle, Goliath: Old vs. new (with video)

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