It’s just before noon on a sunny Tuesday in Santa Cruz, and while most folks were in their virtual classes or at their Zoom office job, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk had hundreds of people ready to ride the Giant Dipper for the first time in over six months.
Despite turning 114 this year, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk saw its second post-pandemic reopening of the year on April 1. The first pandemic the Boardwalk lived through was the Spanish Flu in 1918, when the Giant Dipper hadn’t been built yet and the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway was still the fastest rollercoaster in town at a blazing 25 mph.
The Boardwalk attempted to reopen in November as the county entered the orange tier, but later shut its doors again as COVID cases increased and Santa Cruz faced another spike.
Kris Reyes, spokesperson for Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, has been working as a ride operator and managing during this 21st century reopening.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our guests and employees,” Reyes said. “We want to provide our guests with an amazing experience that is equal parts fun and safe.”
The staff at the Boardwalk support Reyes’ words with their actions as they diligently and consistently sanitize rides, handrails, and ticket counters. Some individuals can be seen disregarding proper physical distancing, but the Boardwalk staff is trying to maximize everyone’s safety by adding markers spaced six feet apart in walkways and queues.
Christina Glynn of Visit Santa Cruz County, a nonprofit that facilitates tourism through marketing, said tourism has been up and down in Santa Cruz as the city dances back and forth between COVID-19 tiers. However, she thinks things are looking up for local businesses.
“I think we’re on the crest of gradual, mindful, and measured reopening,” Glynn said. “And I think that other destinations are in the same boat.”
The Boardwalk is Santa Cruz’s most visited local attraction, and its reopening could provide a huge financial boost to other local businesses both near the Boardwalk and downtown. The Boardwalk brings people to town, where they spend money at hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses. It’s reopening represents an important step in the return toward normalcy for local residents.
“We’re all really happy, after being unable to do anything for the past year,” said one Boardwalk employee who wished to remain anonymous. “I think everyone just wants to get out.”