50 Years of Six Flags Over Texas

April 29, 2011  


By Katie Tufts

Hundreds of people gathered on a brisk weekend day in Arlington recently to celebrate 50 years of tradition and family at Six Flags Over Texas. Children ran from the parking lot to the ticket booth with parents in their wake, while the will-call line wound around pillars and through the historical Alamo-style overhang.

The park’s entrance displayed banners, signs, and a stage for the early morning celebration, and prominent members of the park’s past and present stood on the stage to address the celebratory crowd.

“It’s a milestone, because I remember when I lived here when the park first opened 50 years ago and came here with my first child,” said Mary Debrail, who is now an employee of the Arlington theme park.

Six Flags Over Texas – the first of its kind in the country – recently opened its gates for the season, and will be celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2011. The park initially opened in Aug. 1, 1961, after oilman Angus G. Wynne Jr. had the idea for an amusement park in his home state. Since then, approximately 100 million people have come to Six Flags Over Texas, said Jim Reid-Anderson, Six Flags President and CEO, at the opening day ceremony.

“I remember going to Six Flags in Arlington with my parents when I was about 10 years old, and being barely tall enough to ride the Shock Wave and other coasters,” said Brittany Sweeney, a junior at SMU. “Some of my best memories as a kid were when I was at Six Flags, it was just so much fun.”

Today, the Six Flags Entertainment Corporation operates 17 parks in nine states and has parks in both Canada and Mexico. It is the world’s largest regional theme park company, headquartered in Grand Prairie.

“This is such a rich tradition and there is a lot of heritage and love for this park throughout the community and the state of Texas,” said Sandra Daniels, a Six Flags Communications Representative, who has worked for Six Flags for nearly 11 years. “To reach the 50th mark is just huge for so many people.”

“I went to six flags all the time when I was younger with my entire family, I loved going to go on the roller coasters because they seemed larger than life,” said Adriane Bradway, a junior at SMU. “It was always a lot of fun, but it was usually really crowded and sometimes it was a sketchy crowd.”

The park plans to have a yearlong celebration with old photos, special events, and a birthday party in August, according to Steve Martindale, the park’s president. June 18 will begin the “50 days of fun” leading up to the Aug. 5 anniversary, which will include the re-opening of roller coasters and attractions, like Casa Magnetica, a tilt house, which closed in 2007.

(Photo by Katie Tufts/Beyond the Bubble)

“This will be the greatest celebration in Arlington throughout the course of this year and we mark the occasion today when it all begins,” said Richard Greene a former Arlington mayor.

From the beginning, Six Flags has tried to make innovation and technology a core aspect of the park, officials said. The park opened the country’s first log ride, El Aserradero, in 1963 and the first roller coaster with consecutive loops, the Shock Wave, in 1978. Now, the Titan is the state’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, and Superman: Tower of Power is the tallest freefall combo tower in the world at, 325 feet.

“Our commitment is to invest in the future, in new technologies to make it even more exciting to come to Six Flags,” said Reid-Henderson.

Many Six Flags parks are built around a special or playful theme. The theme of Six Flags Over Texas is Texas history, which also gave the park its name. There are six themed sections, modeled after the culture of the six countries whose flags flew over Texas during the state’s colorful history.

Wynne and his partners wanted to create a place where guests could go to experience aspects of history that they had only read about, including cowboy culture, French and Spanish cultures, and even southern belles and pirates.

“My job and the job of our 30,000 employees is simple. It is to make people happy and to make people have fun, and it just doesn’t get any better than that,” said Reid-Anderson.

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