Long-time fans and newcomers came together for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens on Wednesday morning.
The ride was touted as the world’s only interlocking, double-looping roller coaster when it first opened to the public in 1978. It still holds that distinction 40 years later, and park President Kevin Lembke says the ride has become a part of the park’s identity.
“It’s an iconic attraction because it’s known not only to our fans, but really throughout the industry as being one of the originals,” said Lembke. “People who came here as kids are now bringing their kids to ride it, so it’s just a great nostalgic ride that’s as great today as it was 40 years ago.”
Larry Giles, park vice president of design and engineering, says new trains were installed in the ride and the original effects in the ride’s cave section were re-installed in preparation for the anniversary.
He says that the ride’s interlocking loops put Busch Gardens on the map as a must-see roller coaster when it first opened.
“It’s really amazing when you go around and look at our park, and you see all the rides that we’ve put in since 1978, Loch Ness Monster can hold its own,” said Giles. “That’s the amazing thing and the brilliance of the people that built this.”
Over its 40 year history, Giles estimates that park has given 58 million rides on the Loch Ness Monster.
American Coaster Enthusiasts, a national group of roller coaster fans, was also part of the anniversary celebration and received a private ride. The group was formed in 1978 when the Loch Ness first opened, and since then, ACE members have become some of the ride’s most hardcore fans.
Bill Galvin rode the Loch Ness Monster during that first year. He says he has come back to experience the ride’s drops and loops ever since.
“I have no idea how many times I’ve ridden it, hundreds, I’m sure,” said Galvin. “Decades ago, I stopped counting.”
Galvin has been a member of ACE since 1985, and although he has since moved to Baltimore, he says attending the anniversary celebration was well worth the trip.
“I was here during that first year, I’ve loved roller coasters my whole life and this one’s got a special place in my heart,” said Galvin. “WIth a lot of roller coasters, you’ve got a flat piece of land and you build something on it, but what’s cool about this one is that it was built into the terrain and it really takes advantage of the terrain that they have here.”
Paul Hilliard, an ACE member since 1996, says the anniversary ceremony “felt like coming home.”
The event was the beginning of a five-day celebration across the park. Busch Gardens will offer single-day tickets at a discounted price of $40, themed drinks at its FestHaus in the park’s Germany section, food specials and retro merchandise and souvenirs until Sunday, June 10.
For more information, visit buschgardens.com/williamsburg.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.