John Faherty reports:
Kings Island has been making people happy, and sometimes queasy, for 40 years.
Since the park opened in 1972 in what then felt like the hinterlands of Warren County, the Partridge family came, the Brady Bunch visited and Evel Knievel jumped.
Kings Island has been, and is, an economic engine, and a first workplace for thousands.
But really, the park is nothing more, and nothing less, than a string of moments.
There have been 96,452,545 riders on the Racer, which was there the day the park opened, and remains the king of all rides.
Kings Island is the place where people went with their moms and dads when they were young. Then it became the place they take their kids.
This will be the 41st year people will walk through the gates and down International Street, and then make a decision: left toward the Racer, straight ahead, past the Eiffel Tower and to the Beast, or a right, with the kids, toward Little Bill’s Giggle Coaster.
Evel rides again: Knievel’s career peaks at Kings Island
The longest successful jump of Evel Knievel’s career happened on Oct. 25, 1975, when he soared over 14 buses at Kings Island. He had one longer jump, but he crashed.
The Kings Island jump aired on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” and gave the show its highest-ever ratings. More than half the people watching TV when he jumped were watching him.
But the drama of the Kings Island jump really begins the year before, in London, when Evel tried to jump over 13 buses, landed a touch short, bounced hard, went over the handle bars, broke his pelvis and landed in a heap at the bottom of the ramp.
Medical crews put Evel on a stretcher, but then he climbed off, grabbed a microphone, and said: “Ladies and gentlemen of this wonderful country, I’ve got to tell you that you are the last people in the world who will see me jump. Because I will never, ever, ever jump again. I am through.”
Hah! Evel Knievel wasn’t done. This great American sports hero would not finish his career in England. He would jump again at Kings Island, and this time he would jump over 14 American buses.
And he nailed it. The rear wheel of his Harley-Davidson touched down, then the front, and then he slowed and stopped. Then he retired again. But this time he kind of meant it.
He tried a few more jumps – 10 vans in Worcester, Mass., seven buses in Seattle – but they were all far shorter. Kings Island was really the end.
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