One Last Ride on the Starliner

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It's been said all good things come to an end. Now, the end has come for Miracle Strip Amusement Park. An emotional night at the park Sunday was capped off with one last ride on the Starliner, the coaster that started it all.

A stiff breeze Sunday night was a reminder that the winds of change are blowing in Panama City Beach.

"It's awful. It's been a very emotional night, more so than I thought," said Buddy Wilkes, Miracle Strip Amusement Park General Manager.

Sunday was its last day. The park property has been sold to a developer. That means no more rides on the Starliner, the roller coaster that started it all back in 1963.

"It's a sad day," said Jim King.

King knows the Starliner better than anyone. In 1978 and then again in 1980, he broke a world record for longest continuous roller coast ride.

"Twenty-five years ago, I rode this thing for 15 days and you know, I just never thought this day would come," said King.

After all the other rides were closed Sunday night, longtime employees went for one last ride on the Starliner. Some people on the last ride have been with the park for more than 30 years.

Like a great Broadway play, this ending had an encore after the last ride.

Jim Luther, a longtime employee, on the ride started chanting, "One more ride!"

So off they went, one last time, and with that, Miracle Strip was done, now just a piece of Panama City Beach's history.

"It's hard, it's really an emotional thing for something like this, especially with the history this park has, for it to go away," said King.

“Has this night been as sad as you thought it would be?” Wilkes was asked.

"It's worse, it's worse," said Wilkes. "Half of my life has been here and, uh, more than that with some of these guys, and I never dreamed tonight would come. I guess that's progress and we all have to move on, but it will be tough leaving this place."

“How was the last ride?”

"It was great. That coaster has done Yoeman's duty for 41 years. It's a special night and a lot of special people around to bring it to a close. It was very fitting."

The teardown of Miracle Strip will start immediately, weather permitting. Rides from Miracle Strip are being sold to parks all over the world. Right now, there's not a buyer for the Starliner. If one isn't found within a couple months it will be torn down.