MASON, Ohio — Kings Island welcomed visitors to its anniversary celebration Friday, exactly five decades after opening its gates for the first time on April 29, 1972.
"Back in 1972, Kings Island was in the middle of nothing — it was cornfields and agriculture,” said Chad Showalter, director of communications for Kings Island. “Today, if you look around the park, it's grown into hotels and small businesses and restaurants."
The park has grown into a great economic catalyst for the area.
"To think that 150 million people have come in and out of this park," Lt. Governor Jon Husted said. "That is nearly half the population of America."
According to Showalter, Kings Island brings in money from visitors across the Midwest while generating more than 5,000 jobs each year.
For Jim Breitenbach, working at the park gave him much more than just a paycheck. He met the love of his life.
“I was working on the war canoes and a young lady named Kathy was working on the antique cars," Breitenbach said. "She came down one day and worked on the ride, and well we've been married since 1979.”
They made sure to return to the park for the 50th celebration.
"If Kathy from Kenwood and me from Finneytown wouldn't have worked here, odds are our paths never would've crossed,” Breitenbach said.
Taryn Harrison was 12 when she came to the park’s opening day to celebrate her brother’s birthday. Harrison said she remembers her father wanted to get to the park early to avoid lines. To her surprise, they were the very first in line.
“There was a ceremony to welcome their first family through the gates of Kings Island, I had no idea,” Harrison said.
Harrison and her family members returned for the park's 50th.
"To have my grandkids come and share it as well, it's like keeping the tradition going,” she said. "That’s what Kings Island’s all about: family and keeping traditions."
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