Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Zippin Pippin -- Elvis' Favorite Ride -- Is Donated to Save Libertyland

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

On Monday, Carolina Crossroads, the company that bought Libertyland's Zippin' Pippin, the second-oldest wooden roller coaster in the world, for $2,000, donated the coaster to Save Libertyland — which was incorporated as a nonprofit organization last week.

Steven Mulroy, lawyer and County Commissioner, burned the midnight oil last week to get Save Libertyland incorporated as a nonprofit. The city's deadline for a decision on what was to be done with the classic coaster was Tuesday, April 24th.

Carolina Crossroads had originally planned to take the cars from the coaster and build a replica of it at their retro rock-and-roll themed amusement park, Roanoke Rapids. Though they have maintained one of the coaster's cars and are still planning to build a replica, they've given the rest of the coaster to Save Libertyland.

Today, at the gates of Libertyland, Mulroy said that Save Libertyland plans to donate the 100-year-old coaster back to the city of Memphis, with the condition that the city preserve it.

"Through the generosity of Carolina Crossroads, we hope to open a park around the Zippin Pippin rollercoaster and the historic Grand Carousel, which have both been a part of the city's history for nearly a century," Mulroy said.

Save Libertyland would like to turn all 20 acres of the former amusement park into a city park, using Coney Island’s redevelopment plan as a model. The organization would be willing to work with the Salvation Army, which plans to buy all 170 acres of the Mid-South fairgrounds in August in order to build a community center.

Libertyland, like its famous coaster, has had its ups and downs over the years. It was opened on July 4th, 1976, to coincide with the nation’s bicentennial. The Pippin, which was Elvis’ favorite roller coaster, continues to attract people from all over the world as a part of their Elvis experience.

The organization has been in contact with Elvis Presley Enterprises. Save Libertyland would like to work with the EPE to possibly include the Zippin' Pippin in tours of Elvis' Memphis, a plan that Save Libertyland's Denise Parkinson maintained could help the roller coaster pay for itself.

Save Libertyland also plans to get the coaster on the National Historic Registry, which would bar federal funds from being used to move or destroy the coaster. It would be the second ride in Libertyland to be on the registry, along with the Grand Carousel, which has a history of its own.

The Grand Carousel has long had a reputation for being haunted. On August 2nd, 1976, not two months after the park opened, a 17-year-old boy named Mike Crockett was operating the carousel as his first summer job. When a child in the park lost his balloon in the ride's inner workings, Crockett climbed into its roof to retrieve the prize. While he was inside, the carousel somehow started up and the gears crushed him to death.

"No one even knew his name until today," Parkinson said. "I want to re-envision this place as the Mike Crockett Memorial Park."

-Cherie Heiberg

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