Launching Pad Drive-In’s grand reopening weekend set for May 3

The grand reopening of the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant in Wilmington, Illinois, is set for the weekend of May 3, coinciding with the Illinois Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festival.

The gala begins May 3 with the Route 66 restaurant’s first cruise night by the Rusty Nutz Car Club. The Red Carpet Festival begins that Saturday. The Launching Pad will continue the grand reopening with giveaways on Sunday.

The announcement for the big event was posted Saturday on Facebook. The Launching Pad remains best-known for its unique Gemini Giant fiberglass statue, erected during the mid-1960s on a corner of the property.

The new operators of the Launching Pad, Tully Garrett and Holly Barker, began with soft openings in February, mostly as a test kitchen for a variety of prospective food offerings.

The restaurant gradually has expanded its hours since, and the lines of customers have swelled, as well:

Garrett and Barker purchased the restaurant in 2017 after it had been closed for seven years. The revival and apparent success of the restaurant, once considered improbable as its closure dragged on, has proven to be a testament to the couple’s vision and hard work.

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.

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 landed there in 1965 after John Korelc saw a Muffler Man during a restaurant convention. Most Muffler Men at the time were cowboys or lumberjacks. Korelc had his specially made so it looked liked an astronaut. John Korelc retired in 1986.

Morey Szczecin bought the property in 2007 after longtime owners Jerry and Sharon Gatties retired. But the restaurant struggled and closed in 2010.

(Image of the Gemini Giant at the Launching Pad Drive-In in August by Chad Horwedel via Flickr)

One thought on “Launching Pad Drive-In’s grand reopening weekend set for May 3

  1. I need to move back to Illinois…chronic financial crisis and record high taxes notwithstanding. Maybe I’ll just visit.

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