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Zippin Pippin Roller Coaster in Green Bay May Lure Legion of Elvises

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February 27, 2011

There could be a whole lotta shakin' going on when Elvis Presley's favorite roller coaster rolls into Green Bay this summer.

 City officials are considering inviting Elvis impersonators en masse to entertain crowds at the Zippin Pippin roller coaster.

Scheduled to debut here in May, the Zippin Pippin was Presley's favorite amusement park ride during its previous incarnation in Memphis, Tenn.

Green Bay is paying about $3.5 million to acquire the rights and build a re-creation of the wooden coaster at Bay Beach Amusement Park.

The idea of a mini-Elvis convention has sparked interest among city leaders as a way of stirring excitement and generating crowds.

"I think it'd be really cool," Alderman Ned Dorff said at a recent committee meeting.

Frank Hermans, a well-known Elvis impersonator in Green Bay, said he would welcome the chance to entertain at the Zippin Pippin. Hermans said plenty of other impersonators might swivel their hips for the occasion, too.

"You never know," he said. "And they're all over, man."

The coaster has been under construction at Bay Beach since August. Although costs have risen beyond the initial $3 million estimate, crews report that work has gone smoothly.

Kurt Wolfgram, project manager for Miron Construction Co., said the structural frame will be complete soon, and crews then will complete the mechanical systems by the end of March.

Wolfgram said workers were slightly nervous at first, because this was their first roller coaster job.

"Everything went together just as planned," he said.

Situated alongside other popular rides at Bay Beach, the Zippin Pippin is expected to draw big crowds to Green Bay this summer.

City officials said they will decide later whether to try organizing an Elvis impersonator gathering early in the season or later.

City parks director Bill Landvatter said officials already have discussed ways of capitalizing on the Elvis connection, including on the anniversary of his death in August.

"This coaster's going to be around for a long time," he said. "There's going to be a lot of opportunities to do special events."


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