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Playland’s iconic ‘clickety-clack’ wooden roller coaster turns 65

One of Vancouver’s most iconic attractions is celebrating a significant milestone.

Playland’s venerable wooden rollercoaster turns 65 this year — fresh off a $2-million refurbishment.

“They do not make them like this any more,” Vancouver City Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said as she proclaimed Wednesday Playland Wooden Coaster Day.

“To have the wooden roller coaster, the clickety-clack and the sound as it goes up that first hill and then it’s propelled entirely by gravity after that — it’s just an experience you cannot have anywhere else, and I don’t think it’s an understatement to say we have one of the best experiences in the world.”

The popular thrill ride was designed by Carl Phare and with work led by construction head Walker LeRoy in 1957 for a 1958 opening.

The structure, which cost $200,000 to build, is made entirely from B.C. Douglas fir. At its highest point it stands 22.9 metres (75 feet), and its trains reach a maximum speed of 75 kilometres per hour.

PNE president and CEO Shelly Frost said in its 65 years, more than 32 million people have ridden the coaster.

“It can be said you’re not truly a Vancouverite or a British Columbian unless you’ve ridden the Playland wooden roller coaster — I don’t know who said that, but I definitely say that,” Frost said.

“She has been celebrated by Hollywood, studied by scientists, she’s been the site of marriages, first dates, a lot of double-dares and incredible joy and I’m not going to lie, a lot of tears.”

The ride, which is listed as an American Coaster Enthusiasts “coaster classic” and “landmark” is also an important economic driver for the city, B.C. Tourism Minister Lana Popham said.

“It’s incredibly important to our tourism sector here, this is one of our great attractions, there’s a ton of domestic visits but of course we also attract visits from outside of British Columbia,” she said.

“Over half a million people come and ride this coaster every summer.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday without gifts and snacks.

To mark the event, Phare’s family donated his original architectural blueprints for the ride to the PNE, thought to be the only remaining drawings from its design phase.

The amusement park will also offer a special anniversary hot dog in the coaster’s honour, which comes wrapped in a print of the Vancouver Sun‘s 1958 front page from opening day, which featured the ride.

Roller coaster fans can also take advantage of a $65-anniversary package, which includes early admission to the park, a behind-the-scenes look at the coaster and mini donuts.

Playland is already well into its summer season, while the PNE holds its opening day on Aug. 19.

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