Going, going gone! This time it wasn’t a radio call of a Yaz home run.
Paragon Park closed after the 1984 season. Thankfully, I made a visit in August that year with no premonition that park was soon to close. Paragon was alive and vibrant. But when it comes to the demise of amusement parks, what’s so special about alive and vibrant? We’ve seen it all before, right?
On June 12, 1985, Paragon Park was auctioned off. In the Boston Globe photo above, David Norton (left) and Doc Horton of Norton Auctioneers (Coldwater, Michigan) took bids on the Giant Coaster. The final bidder was Mark Mason of the Wild World amusement park of Largo, Maryland. He can be seen in the bottom right of the photo under the hand of Doc Horton wearing the white shirt and black coat with his arms crossed. Horton bought the coaster with the top bid of $28,000.
In 1986, Wild World Park hired the Dinn Corporation to dissemble and move the coaster from Paragon Park and rebuild it in Wild World. While very little of the structure was reused, it was to be rebuilt to the plans of (Philadelphia Toboggan Company ) PTC #91 and renamed The Wild One. That meant the coaster would recapture the elements lost in Paragon’s 1963 fire, incorporating the original helix at the end of the ride. The Giant was dismantled and what was salvable, was flat-bedded south to Wild World. PTC was hired to rehab one of the Giant’s trains (below).
This was great news to Paragon fans, knowing the train that carried millions over two decades, including Judy Garland in 1967, would rattle on!
While the other train was purchased privately, and well…
BUT…over in Pennsylvania, PTC did a remarkable restoration job to the Giant’s train as seen in this 1986 photo below.
The relocated Giant Coaster, now the Wild One, was a smash hit at Wild World. Here it is during its debut season of 1986.
So in late May 1990, I was in Washington, D.C. on a business trip. Knowing that the Giant was now in nearby Largo, I just had to ride it! The downtown D.C. hotel I was staying in had plenty of Wild World collateral in its lobby.
I took the Metro and a cab to get to the park, eagerly anticipating the coaster’s helix ending that I missed out on before Paragon’s 1963 fire. As amusement parks go, Wild World was rather vanilla. But I wasn’t there for spinning rides or water slides, I was there to ride the reborn Giant Coaster. And what a site it was, dominating a field, and encompassing a huge section of the park.
Other than the lack of the salt water spray and the familiar landscape of Paragon Park, the Wild One brought me back to 1967 for my first ride on the Giant Coaster. It was an incredible facsimile. And the “lost ending” really packed a wallop with quick alternating lateral forces. I don’t recall how many times I rode the coaster, but it was probably too many. Basking in the glow of the experience on my Metro ride home, I almost missed my stop.
Good thing I rode it when I did. The Wild One did not open for the 1991 season since the park was having financial difficulties. It reopened for the 1992 season and has been operational ever since. That’s because in 1992, Wild World was purchased by Premier Parks and renamed Adventure World. In 1998, Premier Parks acquired the Six Flags amusement park chain from Time Warner, forming the company Six Flags Incorporated. At the end of 1998 season, Six Flags announced that Adventure World would be branded with the Six Flags theme and renamed Six Flags America for the 1999 season. While still in its original location, the Wild One now navigates dramatically different landscape since my 1990 ride.
The train that ran on the Paragon Giant from 1964 to 1984, by way of the Forest Park Highlands Comet, was retired from the Wild One in 1999.
The Wild One itself has been re-tracked two times and remains a favorite of coaster enthusiasts as it now thrills millions at Six Flags America.
So cry not for the fallen Giant. It lives on in reincarnation. May its long legacy rein forever!
Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc. (http://www.philadelphiatoboggancoastersinc.com/index.php)
The Boston Globe
Forest Park Highlands web site
Check out this site about an upcoming book on Paragon Park:
To find out more about Paragon’s Red Mill ride and those that followed, go to:
To see my 1968 Paragon Park video, go to:
To experience the Wild One, go to: