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Route 66 News

Tourists affix dozens of stickers on Gemini Giant of Wilmington

While tourists continue to visit the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Illinois, despite the closing of the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant in 2013, one new twist recently emerged — visitors slapping stickers on the iconic fiberglass figure.

According to the Daily Journal, Wilmington Mayor Roy Strong and some residents don’t have a problem with tourists affixing stickers on the Route 66 landmark. But others do.

While the city’s residents enjoy the attention the Giant brings, some have expressed concerns about tourists putting stickers on the city’s icon. On Thursday, the statue had 25 stickers posted on its legs, as well as someone’s name engraved on it.
“It’s very disrespectful,” said Debbie Marchbank, who has lived next door to the former restaurant for five years. “It’s a landmark. What they are doing is destruction of property.”
“I don’t like that they are doing it,” said another neighbor, who declined to give their name. “They’re ruining the guy. Everyone I talk to says the same thing. It’s very disrespectful to the people who live here.”

Residents agree the restaurant site has become an eyesore since its closing four years ago. The newspaper reports the building’s exterior has continued to deteriorate, and weeds are growing in the parking lot. The restaurant’s original menu board also was destroyed by a wayward truck.

Owner Morey Szczecin closed the restaurant a few years after buying it from longtime operators Jerry and Sharon Gatties, who retired.

Szczecin tried to auction the Gemini Giant and Launching Pad last year. But a local couple’s bid of $177,500 didn’t meet the undisclosed minimum. Both continue to sit.

And without an owner on the premises to keep an eye on it, visitors will continue to plaster the Gemini Giant with stickers or try to carve their names into the fiberglass. Either can’t be good for the statue’s paint job or its long-term health.

Szczecin should be commended for insisting the Gemini Giant and Launching Pad be sold as a package deal. He said he has turned down offers for the Gemini Giant alone.

However, Szczecin from the beginning wanted too much money for a restaurant that will need a lot of renovation work from any new owner. It initially was put up for sale in 2010 with an asking price of $650,000, with no takers.

John and Betty Korelc opened a Dairy Delite at the site in 1960. It was renamed the Launching Pad after an expansion in 1965. The Gemini Giant statue landed there in 1965 after John Korelc saw a Muffler Man during a restaurant convention and bought one. Most Muffler Men were cowboys or lumberjacks. Korelc had his custom-made so it looked liked an astronaut; it remains the only spaceman model of a Muffler Man.

The Launching Pad and Gemini Giant were inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 2000. It long has been one of the biggest photo opportunities for Route 66 travelers.

(Image of the Gemini Giant on May 24 by Chris Beadle via Facebook)

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11 thoughts on “Tourists affix dozens of stickers on Gemini Giant of Wilmington

  1. Allan Hunter

    to the people of Willmington, Ill. put up a 10′ high fence of pig wire. If you don’t know what
    pig wire is ask a farmer.

  2. Eric Hayman

    There are two words for this: littering and vandalism. Just what do the stickers say that is so important for the world? How small minded are the sticker stickers – in the same vein as much of Twitter and Facebook: hey – look at me!

    1. Allan Hunter

      That is true. Catch some of those people doing it then put stickers on them so the stickers are
      not so easy to get off. hint

  3. Lane Stripe

    This needs to stop. Why can’t people just look and admire something without defacing it? This is how & why the Cadillac Ranch ended up as a junkyard. Remove the statue until appropriate fencing can be found and then enclose the property.

  4. Steve S

    The real estate company that has it listed can’t bother to do anything? Cut down the weeds in the parking lot and repaint the base of Gemini Giant? Who is going to buy it? As far as the current owners, lower the price! The longer the property sits there to rot, a possible buyer will care less if it’s a ‘landmark’. Are you there Wilmington government? HELLO!

  5. Lane Stripe

    To Allan Hunter: Speaking of adhesives that are tough to remove, perhaps we should revive a great American tradition called Tarring & Feathering. To Steve S: Amen! And just where ARE the property owners, exactly?

    1. Allan Hunter

      How true it is Steve. where are the residents just running off at the mouth and don’t do anything.

  6. Tonya Pike

    Folks, the truth of the matter is that the care of this is still, at this point, up to the Owner – not the City or the Real Estate Broker. Until it sells, its the Owner’s business, and as a business owner, it is up to him to take care of it. You would think if he wants $650,000 for this property, he would be trying desperately to prevent what is happening.

    The larger issue here is that this is not one-only issue. There have been issues up and down the road with what amounts to vandalism over the last several years, some reported, some not. Maybe this is something that the Associations need to be encouraging business owners to address. Maybe notes, too, in things like the EZ Guide and Association and business literature. What is the that saying? Take only photographs and leave only footprints? Maybe that needs to be the travel mantra on Route 66, posted everywhere possible to let everyone know this kind of behavior is not cool. We have enough out here to do right now, (think of the flooding and hail damage and clean up in Missouri) without anything being added to the load. This needs to stop sooner rather than later.

  7. Eric Hayman

    Do maniacs in America still “go postal” – after postmen went beserk and killed many people?
    Perhaps “love locking” could become the general term for vandalising public and private property just to tell the world (as if it wants to know) about some individual(s) whom no one is that bothered about and who is/are nothing more than publicity seekers.

  8. Steve S

    Gemini Giant is in most if not all of the Route 66 guide books. Yet another road trip season is starting and the property still looks the way it does. This no longer is a joking matter. This situation is unacceptable and highly embarrassing for the town of Wilmington and the state of Illinois. Perhaps the IL. Route 66 association can reach out to the current owner and try to do something. The property listing states the property is AS IS, DISCOUNTED PRICE, MOTIVATED SELLER, and on and on. The ‘discounted price’ is $340,000. I really think the owner and real estate agent should have a chat about that. Wow. Just wow.

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