American Coaster Enthusiasts, a 5,000-member international club that promotes and preserves roller coasters will hold its 40th Coaster Con June 18-22 in Texas. The group formed when coaster lovers found each other at a coaster-riding marathon in Virginia tied to the release of the movie Rollercoaster in 1977. They held their first convention the next year.
The all-volunteer not-for-profit has participated in refurbishing the oldest roller coaster in the world, Leap-the-Dips, built in Altoona, Penn., in 1902, and the Giant Dipper, built in San Diego in 1925, the wooden roller coaster heyday when some 2,000 operated in the United States. That figure has dropped to about 125. Overall, amusement parks have faced challenges across the generations, from competing forms of entertainment to spiraling land costs, and many have closed.
“While steel roller coasters seem to proliferate and a few new wooden roller coasters are built each year, the classic wooden roller coaster is still somewhat of an endangered species,” according to the organization’s website (aceonline.org). “ACE believes that wooden roller coasters are an integral part of the fabric that is Americana. The organization represents the talents of the most ardent park enthusiasts, amassing a collective historical perspective unmatched by any other group, anywhere. It is ACE’s goal to save or relocate endangered coasters through education, awareness, and promotion.”
The group launched the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives in 2001 to develop preservation and display space for its collection of thousands of historical items, including roller coaster cars, and donated items. It owns an 8,000-square-foot storage facility in Plainview, Texas, with plans to expand.
ACE publishes Guide to Ride, listing every operating roller coaster in North America with detailed statistics and lavish photographs, It also publishes the RollerCoaster! quarterly magazine and a bimonthly newsletter, ACE News. An ACE book series profiles important roller coaster designers.
The 2017 Coaster Con will be at Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld San Antonio, both in San Antonio, and ZDT’s Amusement Park in Seguin, Tex. ACE also holds smaller events at various parks throughout the year, including special off-hour rides for club members only.