Enquirer Herald

Roller coaster riders flock to Carowinds for convention

Around 650 roller coaster enthusiasts from all over the U.S. made a thrilling stop in Carowinds this week as a part of the American Coaster Enthusiasts’ “Coastal Con XXXV.”

Emily Delaney, along with her fiancé, Adam Cassano, and mother Kathy and planned to ride at least 11 rides at Carowinds during their stay.

“I’m here for the Nighthawk,” Cassano said.

Kathy Delaney was looking forward more to The Intimidator, while daughter Emily said, “I’m here for everything.”

The band of three came from New Jersey. Kathy Delaney has been a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) for six years.

Kathy decided to join ACE because, “I wanted to travel, and I love roller coasters,” she said. Her favorite wooden coaster is El Toro at Jackson Great Adventure in New Jersey, which is close to her home so she can ride it often, she said.

What makes a coaster stand out from the crowd to enthusiasts? The more unique, the better, Cassano said. “A ton of design.”

Kathy Delaney said for her, “It’s speed.”

“It has to be fun, it can’t be painful,” Emily said. “If it makes me laugh, I’m good.”

Although the trio had not seen much of Carowinds yet, they enjoyed their first meal and found the park extremely easy to find, Kathy said.

Getting everything ready for the conference was “a year in the making,” said Bryn Willburn, public relations manager at Carowinds. “We’re thrilled about it.”

ACE, a nonprofit with around 5,300 members focuses on historical roller coaster preservation, in addition to having fun.

“This year has the most new coasters being built since 2001,” said David Lipnicky, the ACE public relations director who was helping out with the event.

Lipnicky thinks a recent dip then sudden boom for roller coasters is mainly due to the improving economy.

“I’ve been riding roller coasters since I was 4 years old,” he said. “Most of my friends are in this club.”

Lipnicky works as a labor economist in Grand Prairie, Texas.

“My friends at work don’t get it,” he said. “They just shake their heads and say, ‘Really? Another vacation? How many coasters?’”

Lipnicky’s record vacation is riding 90 coasters in 19 days.

A big benefit of membership to the organization is that they get line-free “ERT” or “exclusive ride time” outside of park hours, he said.

The hardest part of holding such a large conference is trying to find something for everyone, Lipnicky said. The group visited Dollywood in Tennessee earlier this week, a classic park known more for its shows and entertainment, while Carowinds is more famous for its thrill rides, Lipnicky said.

ACE members rarely get sick from riding the coasters with the exception of some children who ride repeatedly without eating, he said. Lipnicky advises everyone to wear lots of sunscreen and “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate” between rides, he said.

Shortly after Lipnicky got on The Intimidator, he said, “A great ride ...could ride all day.”