BROOKLYN — For some, the term “airtime” conjures up the number of minutes you spend on your cell phone each month. But for a select group of thrill seekers, airtime is that exquisite zero-G sensation when riders experience the sensation of weightlessness while traveling on trains over wooden or steel tracks at high speeds. These are the members of American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE), who will be visiting Astroland and the world famous Coney Island Cyclone as the highlight of their annual Preservation Conference on August 5. The conference will attract over 300 members from 25 North American states and provinces.
Coney Island and Astroland is a Mecca of sorts for coaster enthusiasts according to Mark Cole, ACE’s president. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering the area’s rich amusement history and that Astroland is the keeper of the world’s most famous roller coaster. “Cyclone has been often imitated but has never been truly duplicated. It’s the granddaddy of all roller coasters,” said Mr. Cole. It’s is also one of only 17 roller coasters in the world that the organization has designated as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark, an award reserved for rides of historical significance.
According to Matt Crowther, ACE’s preservation director, the importance of Cyclone is illustrated by the fact that it was one of the first three rides designated as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark when a permanent historical marker was installed near its entrance in 2002. “It’s also an ACE Coaster Classic, a designation that awards a ride for its traditional experience—one that has been shared by generations of thrill seekers since the Golden Age of the 1920s when the wild, uninhibited, free wheeling thrills of the wooden roller coaster established it as the premier thrill ride and an icon of popular culture,” stated Crowther.
The purpose of ACE’s Preservation Conference is to bring attention to such classic roller coasters. A portion of the proceeds from the event benefits ACE’s Preservation Fund, which has supported a number of causes; for example, ACE was the largest contributor to the restoration of Leap-the-Dips, the world’s oldest roller coaster, which reopened in its original Pennsylvania location in 1999 after sitting dormant for 13 years.
Founded in 1978, ACE is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation, promotion, appreciation, and safe enjoyment of roller coasters. With more than 8,000 members in all 50 states and in 12 different countries, ACE is the largest amusement park enthusiast club in the world. ACE membership includes bimonthly newsletters, quarterly magazines, and the opportunity to attend events at parks each year.
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