Just ask any roller coaster rider who’s logged their fair share of hours at Kings Island, and they’ll have a memorable tale or two of The Beast to share — and after 35 years and 48,882,975 rides, it’s easy to see why.
The wooden coaster has become a rite of passage for any roller coaster fan. Last week, I took my 5-year-old goddaughter on The Beast’s junior coaster The Beastie for the first time (even though it’s gone through various naming reincarnations, it will always be The Beastie) and she informed me that she only has 3 inches to go until she’s “Beast-sized.” We swapped stories about how often I’d ridden The Beastie growing up until I was tall enough for The Beast, how both of our parents had grown up riding the big coaster and how the cars on its wooden tracks make a growling sound, just like a real “beast.”
And we aren’t alone. A quick Google search for “The Beast at Kings Island” will uncover pages and pages of news articles on the roller coaster, home videos taken in secret documenting a young rider’s first ride and message boards and blog posts where fans share memories of their favorite moments — wearing roller skates to add a few precious inches to be just tall enough to ride, hilarious photos snapped at just the right moment on the most terrifying part, that one time where someone’s sister cried on the coaster and they kept the photographic evidence for 20 years for blackmail.
Since beginning its rule over Kings Island in 1979, The Beast’s 1.4 mile wooden track, big drops and underground tunnel have provided riders a 4-minute, 10-second ride that continues to be the stuff of legends and traditions, even as bigger, newer and (theoretically) better coasters populate the park.
Originally slated to mimic the Shooting Star, an incredibly popular roller coaster at Cincinnati’s Coney Island before the park closed in 1971 (only to permanently reopen in 1973, sans most of its original rides), The Beast’s engineers and Charles Dinn, King’s Islands director of construction, maintenance and engineering at the time, decided to create something brand new.
They utilized an entire 35 acres of the park’s wooded landscape and natural cliffs and gullies to create a completely unique ride: the world’s longest, tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster. Thirty-five years later, The Beast is still winning awards.
In 2004, the American Coaster Enthusiasts gave The Beast the Coaster Landmark Award for roller coasters of historical significance, and industry periodical Amusement Today ranked it No. 8 in the top 10 best wooden rollercoasters of 2013. And the Beast is still listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s longest wooden roller coaster.
Each ride on The Beast comes with a story. Mine is of my first ride on the coaster with my dad, where it stopped at the peak of the first hill for a solid 20 minutes due to “technical difficulties,” but instead of becoming frightened, I just sat back and listened to my dad’s stories about riding The Beast with my mom and how we would make it a family tradition now that I was tall enough to ride, too. It’s the only coaster my mom and dad will still ride, even if it is just for old-time’s sake.
And standing in line with them is worth the steep price of King’s Island admission; they reminisce about the summers when my dad worked as an entertainer at the park. My mom used to visit him every day while they were dating. She’d watch him play the drums in countless rounds of Kings Island musicals over and over, he’d go on his break, and they’d spend it eating funnel cake and hopping on a few rides. Their favorite by far was The Beast: It was new, exciting and had the fastest (albeit longest) line, as its special coaster car launching device allowed more than 1,200 guests to ride every hour.
Even after spending nearly 20 summers waiting in line for every ride in the park, The Beast has my heart. The next time you’re in line for the legend of a roller coaster, just listen. There are sure to be countless other stories being told of its 35 years reigning over Kings Island.
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