Local

Little Dipper makes big splash

Six Flags Great America fans have a new stepping stone in their quest to conquer coasters.

The Gurnee-based theme park unveiled the Little Dipper this year, a blue and white wooden coaster with a lot of history and a low height requirement.

Riders have to clear just 36 inches to hop on with a parent, and 42 inches to ride it solo.

“I have a 3-year-old sister that went on it and loved it,” said Dalton Ligget, 10.

That makes it a perfect gateway coaster, said Jim Crowley, marketing director for Six Flags Great America.

“It builds you up. This is your first ride before the [American] Eagle or the Viper,” he said, referencing the park’s two other wooden coasters. Overall, the park now has 14 roller coasters.

The ride isn’t too small for those with a braver heart though. In fact, the 700 feet figure-eight track has a three-story high hill to kick things off.

“It’s very thrilling,” Ligget said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be as fun as it was because it looks small.”

Great America purchased the coaster in November from Kiddieland, which closed last September. They paid $36,000 for the ride, which originally was built for Kiddieland in 1950 for $20,000 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.

“We thought this would be a great way ... to be able to preserve some part of history,” Crowley said. “There’s such a nostalgic value.”

Fun facts

• The 700-foot track has a three-story hill and is shaped like a figure-eight.
• It was built in 1950 for $20,000 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
• The coaster was operated at Kiddieland Amusement Park from 1950 until September, when the park closed.

Source: Six Flags Great America

Ron Rynes, one of the previous Kiddieland owners, said he was glad the coaster could live on.

“A lot of kids got their first ride on a coaster [on the Little Dipper],” he said. “Millions and millions of people have ridden this.”

Since the auction, the ride has gotten a fresh coat of paint and some new wood.

“It looks like it’s a brand-new roller coaster,” Crowley said.

The coaster sits near the entry to the theme park’s children’s area, Bugs Bunny National Park. And Crowley said he’s sure it’ll be popular for two contradictory reasons – it has a strong history and it’s the new thing this year.

“I can’t wait to take my kids on it,” he said. “They’re going to have a ball.”

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