Mulroy’s Salvage Mission Finally Succeeds: Green Bay to Get the Zippin’ Pippin

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Mayor A C Wharton got a basket of goodies Monday from Green Bay, Wisconsin, while that city's mayor, Jim Schmitt (center), got dibs on the Zippin Pippin from the famous ride's custodian, Steve Mulroy of Save, Libertyland!, Inc.
  • Mayor A C Wharton got a basket of goodies Monday from Green Bay, Wisconsin, while that city's mayor, Jim Schmitt (center), got dibs on the Zippin' Pippin from the famous ride's custodian, Steve Mulroy of Save, Libertyland!, Inc.
Though he has concerns that are arguably more immediate and more personal — like preparing for a reelection campaign in 2010 — Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy appears finally to have swung a deal to save that vintage wonder, the Zippin’ Pippin.

Only the famous roller-coaster ride that tested the mettle of innumerable Memphians since 1923, when it first showed up at the Fairgrounds, won’t be preserved on its home grounds. Rather, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a town heretofore more famous for football than for free fall.

As head of the ad hoc group Save Libertyland! Inc., Mulroy has been trying since 2006, the year he ran for — and won — his District 5 commission seat, to prevent the legendary attraction from going extinct along with the rest of the vintage Fairgrounds properties as the site’s amusement park core headed for shutdown.

After Mulroy, a University of Memphis law professor, and his fellow Pippin enthusiasts had done a good deal of shopping the Pippin out to various amusement parks in their spare time, the mayor of Green Bay, Jim Schmitt, got wind of what was going on and asked for a look-see. On Monday, Schmitt (who is surely used to inclement weather) braved the snow, ice, and slush of Memphis to examine the property, arriving in town along with other Green Bay officials.

He and they liked what they saw, and Schmitt announced at the end of the day that, upon returning to Green Bay, he would recommend to his city council that they buy the Pippin. In practice, that means the name, the ride’s basic architecture and physical plan, and its historical association will be sold — with new boards and other materials to be supplied by the Wisconsin city.

Tentatively, the transplanted Pippin would reopen in 2011 at the Bay Beach site in the Green Bay area, and Schmitt estimated the deal could be wrapped up within 60 days.

Helping to midwife the deal was Memphis mayor A C Wharton, who met with Mulroy and Schmitt on Monday — though the city itself had no claim to ownership over Pippin, which had become the sole property of Save Liberftyland!, Inc.

Though Mulroy estimates that millions will be lavished on the Pippin during its restoration at Bay Beach, he acknowledges that the purchase price was quite a bit smaller — maybe even a token sum, especially in comparison to Mulroy’s own fundraising efforts for his reelection bid, which, he wanted it known, are subject to no Pippin-like rise-and-fall but are going straight up, along with several key endorsements, and…..

But that’s another story, which — if the oh-so-bashful commissioner assents — may get told at some later point.

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