Danville Express

Newsfront - August 10, 2007

Giant Dipper looms large in family's future

Danville resident wins 100-year pass to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

by Natalie O'Neill

Fate seems to be pulling Kerry Wells straight to the top of a bright white rollercoaster.

Out of 11,800 entries nationally, the Danville mother and Girl Scout leader won a 100-year pass to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park last week. And now it's carousels and cotton candy for life.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Coney Island of the West, gave away the passes as part of its centennial celebration.

"I've been going there since I was a kid and it really is special. We'll go all the time now," said Wells, adding that she plans to go with her son Cameron, 12-1/2.

As the cost of seaside properties rises, the beach boardwalk is one of the last remaining coastal amusement parks in the West. Located about 70 miles from Danville, it is renowned for its large white wooden rollercoaster, the Giant Dipper, which was built in 1924. It is the centerpiece of the park, and can be seen - and sometimes heard - all over town.

The boardwalk also features a carousel, built in 1911, a modern arcade and has welcomed Moscow Circus this summer.

Wells, 42, applied to the contest on a whim in the spring, while checking out surf schools for a Girl Scout camp she returned from this week. While strolling along the ocean, she popped into the park, signed up quickly and didn't think twice about it.

"I forgot I had even entered," she explained.

When the drawing was completed last week, Beach Boardwalk representatives announced her name and she was, coincidently, just down the beach with the Scouts, surfing. She didn't hear the news, however, until returning home to Danville.

"She was just a stone's throw away," said Christina Glynn, communications director for Santa Cruz Conference and Visitors Council.

"It's so interesting the way things work," Wells said.

According to boardwalk rules, passes can be inherited and winners can choose to go with one companion. Wells also won a vacation getaway as part of the drawing.

Thinking back on the highlights of the park as a kid, Wells recalled one game where the goal was to toss a ring into a clown's mouth while riding round and round on the carousel. If you made it in, bells would sound and lights would flash, she said.

The boardwalk's Web site currently features a "millions of memories" section where amusement park-goers tell their stories and share old photographs. Some older people wrote they went when they were kids and now they take their grandchildren.

Attractions this summer include a display of local artists' interpretations of the beach boardwalk, outdoor concerts, and fireworks as part of the 100-year anniversary. Year round, the boardwalk also features laser tag, bowling and mini golf.

"There's something for everybody," Fuller said.

For now, Wells is looking forward to taking her son to ride the bumper cars. And she's still surprised she won.

"Out of 11,800 - that's pretty good odds," she said.

Ride the roller coaster

To experience a ride on the Giant Dipper, go to DanvilleWeekly.com, click on the Giant Dipper story, then the video link.


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