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Posted September 5, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Wipeout formerly owned by Michael Jackson makes way to Shenandoah

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Kitty Long set her husband up too easily in describing what matters most with carnival rides.

"As long as it gives them a thrill," she said.

Derek Long added, "Just like that song 'Thriller.'"

About eight years ago, the Longs, who own D&K Amusements in Westminster, Md., got an irresistible bargain -- a Wipeout, which is a type of ride, from Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch in California. They paid $175,000 for the machine, which had been repossessed from the King of Pop's property.

"It runs about like he sang," Derek Long said.

New Wipeouts cost $400,000, and even used ones go for $250,000, the Longs said, making the Jackson ride, with a custom-made control box for the singer and his monkey in addition to large pictures of motorcycles and bikes, a steal of a deal.

But, seriously, does anyone care about the bargain, once they know the bargain came from you know who's house? Not really.

"It is kind of [cool]," Kitty Long said. "Just knowing we have a ride that he got [made for him]. ... It'd be really neat if he had put his autograph on it."

D&K Amusements travels with Penn Wood Shows, a Gettysburg, Pa.-based company owned by Derek Long's parents. This week, the companies are operating the rides at the Shenandoah County Fair.

There is nothing about this particular Wipeout -- the ride can be found around the country -- that shouts "Michael Jackson." The only way one would know is to read a small sign posted where ride tickets are sold. It invites you to ride Jackson's Wipeout.

But ask the Long family about the ride and they will speak. Derek Long's mother, Heidi, said many people express doubt that this Wipeout is what the family says it is.

"Michael Jackson didn't pay for anything," she said. "He said, 'I'll take this, I'll take that.' ... Make his payments was one thing he didn't do."

Kitty Long said the ride, built in 1992, does not have the wear and tear that most carnival machines have since it was not torn down and put on the move all of the time sitting at Neverland.

"We had a hard time setting it up," she said. "The pins were so tight."

And, something that will make Kitty Long happy, it's good for a thrill, said Julia and Alisia Turner, a pair of Edinburg sisters who rode it twice recently.

"It goes really fast," said Julia, 13. "It makes your stomach flip."

The sisters had no idea that the ride was owned by Jackson. After learning it was, they darted back to ride it again.

Others did not share that level of enthusiasm, but were still impressed nonetheless.

"It's kind of neat," said Logan Orndorff, 17, of Strasburg. "If Hank Williams Jr. had a ride, it'd be much better."

He added that he would also ride any rides owned by Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Taylor Swift.

The Longs are thinking of ways to outfit the Wipeout with more Jackson features to attract riders. Heidi Long suggests playing his music and putting signs up.

"Anything will help, to get more tickets," she said.

With Jackson's popularity still high after his death this summer and burial Thursday night, decorating the ride, in the end, may not be an issue for the family -- some fanatic may just blow them away with a deal they cannot refuse.

"As soon as he died, everyone said, 'Now you need to say where the ride came from,'" Kitty Long said.

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