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Published: Saturday, 6/14/2008

English club pays visit to Cedar Point

BY GABE NELSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain members, front car clockwise from left, Sir Andy Hine, Christine Hine, Barry Healey, and Lisa Marshall ride the Corkscrew at Cedar Point. Debra Boggis and Alan Chilvers are in the front seat of the second car. Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain members, front car clockwise from left, Sir Andy Hine, Christine Hine, Barry Healey, and Lisa Marshall ride the Corkscrew at Cedar Point. Debra Boggis and Alan Chilvers are in the front seat of the second car.
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SANDUSKY - Arms thrust in the air, Sir Andy Hine plunged toward the ground.

Along with other members of the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain, Sir Andy was riding the Millennium Force roller coaster at Cedar Point yesterday.

And there's nothing he'd rather be doing.

For Sir Andy and about 75 other club members who visited the Sandusky theme park, the dizzying falls and breakneck speeds deliver a rush worth crossing an ocean.

As part of a club tradition, Sir Andy and Ms. Boggis high-five as they pass one another in line for a roller coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. As part of a club tradition, Sir Andy and Ms. Boggis high-five as they pass one another in line for a roller coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
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The trip to Cedar Point was the culmination of the group's annual tour of American roller coasters. This year, the club also went to Hersheypark, Knoebels Amusement Resort, and Kennywood, all in Pennsylvania, and Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

The tour usually ends at Cedar Point, which has a special relationship with the coaster club, Sir Andy said. The park opened Millennium Force half an hour early so club members could ride all by themselves.

"Typically, we don't open the park early for groups," said Bryan Edwards, a Cedar Point spokesman. "They're just a really fun group to work with."

Sir Andy Hine, founder of the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain, snaps pictures of his friends riding Top Thrill Dragster. Sir Andy Hine, founder of the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain, snaps pictures of his friends riding Top Thrill Dragster.
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Many members said they've loved riding roller coasters since they were children. But several said they have friends and family who don't understand how an adult still can be so passionate about coasters.

"They all think I'm mad, at work," said Steve Corcoran, a member from Brighton. "My family's a little worse because I'm 45, and they think it's a thing that people who are 15 do."

The 1,300-person club has members in their 70s and in their teens. Sir Andy, 41, said a love of roller coasters brings them together.

The members, holding their arms aloft the entire time, clapped and cheered as their ride on Millennium Force began and ended. After finishing the coaster, which was the world's tallest and fastest when it opened in 2000, many members jumped out of their seats and ran back to the loading platform for another go.

Matt Walker, left, Mark Blundell, both of Poole, England, and Marie Boxall, of Norwich, look at pictures of themselves riding a roller coaster at Cedar Point. Matt Walker, left, Mark Blundell, both of Poole, England, and Marie Boxall, of Norwich, look at pictures of themselves riding a roller coaster at Cedar Point.
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Roller coasters have become the focus of Sir Andy's life since he started the club in 1988.

He's been to Cedar Point 51 times and makes a living as an amusement park consultant. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for his contributions to the tourism industry. (The queen said she had never been on a roller coaster, Sir Andy said.)

He met his wife, Christine, after she joined the club more than a decade ago. The couple got engaged on a roller coaster and in 2005 had a wedding ceremony on the Top Gun coaster at Paramount's Great America theme park in California, now called California's Great America, she said.

During the ceremony, the priest stood in front of the train, with the couple in the coaster's first car. The rest of the wedding party sat in the other cars. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the priest stepped out of the way and the wedding party rode the coaster, Mrs. Hine said.

About 75 club members recently visited five U.S. theme parks. The Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain has 1,300 members whose ages range from their teens to their 70s. About 75 club members recently visited five U.S. theme parks. The Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain has 1,300 members whose ages range from their teens to their 70s.
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It wasn't a traditional wedding, to say the least.

Like the club's other members, the Hines have some relatives who don't understand their passion.

"My sister, she says we'll grow out of it someday," Sir Andy said.

But he said that's not going to happen. "There's no age limit on having fun," he said.

Contact Gabe Nelson at: gnelson@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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