In 1994, when Kris Rowberry was 10, he was terrified of roller coasters. Today, he's a “coaster-holic” and self-proclaimed amusement park expert who will share his love of thrills in a program Saturday at the San Mateo County History Museum.
Rowberry — who writes a blog devoted to parks called Great American Thrills and has produced a YouTube series called “The Lost Parks of Northern California” — will present a slide show featuring pictures of Pacific City, a park in Coyote Point that was home in the 1920s to the Comet, billed as the second-largest roller coaster in the world.
The coaster remained a stand-alone attraction even after Pacific City closed, despite the park's popularity among San Mateo County residents. The park's demise after just two seasons was due to pollution in the Bay when a population influx in the region overwhelmed the sewer system.
“Pacific City literally closed because of poo,” said Rowberry, who works as a producer for KLIV (1590 AM) in San Jose. “No matter what, people always have a positive memory of parks that are gone. They don't talk about long lines or bad food, they just remember having fun with family and friends.”
Every year, Rowberry — who particularly loves old-fashioned, family-owned parks like Holiday World in Indiana that he says have soul — takes a trip to experience new rides and parks. Last summer, he hit Six Flags parks in Boston, St. Louis, San Antonio and Dallas. He's come a long way, more than 180 coasters' worth, since his dad convinced him to ride The Tidal Wave, a now-defunct ride at Great America in Santa Clara.
The mission of his “Lost Parks” video series, which is a collaboration with American Coaster Enthusiasts, is to preserve classic parks and rides. Amusement park numbers have dwindled sharply in Northern California in 90 years. Once home to 26 parks, today it has only six.
San Mateo County History Museum spokesman Mitch Postel says he hopes Saturday's presentation — the first time the museum has focused on amusement parks, and part of the organization's goal to have an “eclectic approach” to history — will draw first-time visitors to the museum.
IF YOU GO
Lost Parks of Northern California
Where: San Mateo County History Museum, 2200 Broadway, Redwood City
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $3 to $5 museum admission
Contact: (650)-299-0104, www.historysmc.org