Coaster Con XXXIII, which was held in western Pennsylvania this year, is now a memory for the 400+ who attended. From all accounts, ACE's annual flagship event was a smashing success with great hospitality, lots of meals, plenty of ERT and a plethora of other activities. The host parks were Kennywood (West Mifflin), Idlewild (Ligonier), Conneaut Lake Park (Conneaut Lake) and Waldameer (Erie). Each of the four parks is over 100 years old, with Kennywood, established in 1898 as the baby of the group. Official Coaster Con XXXIII tee shirts illustrated the rich history of the parks, identifying their age on the back of the shirt. The six-day event kicked off on Sunday, June 20 with lots of activity at the Doubletree Hotel in Monroeville, including the ACE General Store and several vendors offering everything from beautiful artwork and photographs to DVDs.
Each of the 14 coasters at the host parks were included in at least one ERT session. Night rides on Thunderbolt (with the lights off), Phantom's Revenge and Ravine Flyer II were highlights. The first morning ERT was capped off with Kennywood's Jack Rabbit and Racer ceremoniously being dedicated as ACE Roller Coaster Landmarks. Later in the week, Conneaut Lake Park's Blue Streak was dedicated as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark as well. Though attendees didn't get to ride the Vettel-designed classic that has been closed since 2006, they delighted in the fact that restoration was underway with an anticipated opening later this summer along with the announcement of the second $5,000 donation from ACE this year. Other unique vintage rides such as Kennywood's Auto Race, Idlewild's Caterpillar, Conneaut Lake Park's Bug and Waldameer's Whacky Shack were included in ERT. Perhaps the greatest highlight was Kennywood going above and beyond to get each attendee a ride on the park's new Sky Rocket launch coaster, which would only premier to the public and media a full week later.
There was much more than amusement rides to enjoy. The opening night Gala included a DJ and a spread of regional cuisine that is largely inspired by Eastern Europe, except for the chipped chopped ham and Isaly's Klondike bars. One afternoon was filled with a video contest and presentations that included Tom Rebbie of Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc. and Lon Smart of Walt Disney Imagineering. ACE's Photo Contest was held within Kennywood and generated quite a bit of interest from other park guests. Over 20 teams took place in a nighttime Midway Olympics, complete with a DJ and modified Racer sign that lit up as "ACE." Early morning rain didn't dampen any spirits at Idlewild as the park had a spread of pastries, donuts, cookies and drinks and handed out complimentary rain ponchos, which soon became unneeded as the skies cleared. An evening Beach party at Sandcastle, Kennywood's sister-waterpark, featured an array of food stations, use of the pools, live entertainment and a dive-in movie at the wave pool, featuring "Adventureland," the 2009 motion picture filmed on location at Kennywood. An average of one all-you-can-eat feast a day was the proverbial icing on the cake to make the event an outstanding value. From the pierogi at Kennywood to the barbeque chicken at Idlewild to the pig roast at Conneaut Lake Park to the ox roast at Waldameer, the food was most memorable. The annual banquet was a time to celebrate ACE. After Kennywood's Andy Quinn delivered an insightful and humorous keynote address, ACE president Mark Cole presented Dave Bird with an honorary membership and Tom Rebbie announced Howard Gillooly as the recipient of the 2010 Philadelphia Toboggan Company's Manufacturer's (Spirit of ACE) Award.