Screams of joy and clattering metal rattle the air as the roller coaster spirals and slices up its track at 45 miles per hour. Thrill seekers throw their hands up in worship — yet another group of converts to the church of the Corkscrew, a favorite at Geauga Lake along with Double Loop and Big Dipper.
The Geauga Lake saga is its own roller coaster. The park, eventually growing to more than 600 acres straddling Bainbridge and Aurora, began in 1817 as 100 acres of farmland beside a 50-acre kettle lake owned by Joel S. Giles. In the 1880s, the railroad helped Giles transform “Picnic Lake” into a Clevelander’s resort. By 1876, a carousel appeared, then a 75-room hotel, a steamboat and a dance hall. In 1925, Big Dipper became the park’s first coaster.
In 2001, the park’s owner, Six Flags, made a detrimental move. Their purchase of neighboring Sea World gave guests two attractions for one price, and attendance dwindled. Cedar Fair bought the park in 2004 but couldn’t revive it. September 2007, the gates shut. The property's water park, Wildwater Kingdom, remained in operation until 2016.
While Bainbridge and Aurora officials debated the property for more than a decade, drone footage uploaded to YouTube captured the amusement park's last, solitary ride, Big Dipper, coiled beside desolate weed-coddled walkways.
Despite rezoning squabbles, failed exploits to save Big Dipper and an odd logging incident, today, excavators sit atop dirt heaps, poised to create a business, residential and shopping area reminiscent of Crocker Park on the property, with homage to its amusement park history.