Red Carpet Corridor Festival participants get a glimpse of soon-to-be-relocated Gemini Giant

Illinois Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festival participants had the rare privilege of seeing the Gemini Giant from the closed Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant lying in repose, with its helmet off.

The Joliet Patch had details about the fiberglass giant being shown inside the City of Wilmington’s public works building during last weekend’s 17th annual festival, including several photos of it:

On Saturday, Joliet Patch interviewed Wilmington Mayor Ben Dietz at the public works facility. Dietz was instrumental in saving the Gemini Giant, and he’s spearheading the efforts to move the Giant to his new home of prominence in the later part of this summer.

By 12:30 p.m. Saturday, hundreds of people showed up at the public works garage to see the Gemini Giant during the nostalgic Red Carpet Corridor Festival.

“I would say we’re easily at 250, which is awesome,” Mayor Dietz remarked. “The Giant’s been a thing that we’ve always had in Wilmington, it seems like for 60 years-ish. And for the locals, we kind of take it for granted. The recent events unfolding with the Giant, it’s great to see the broader support, not just people in Will County, or even Illinois, but it’s the entirety of the Route 66 family, come together to support the Giant and on top of that, the larger international, which was mind-blowing to me. The amount of support, emails, phone calls, voicemails that I’ve gotten, nice to see so many people are still very enthusiastic about Route 66.” […]

“This is a great event, promoting Route 66 and what a better opportunity to get the locals and the bigger Route 66 community a chance to see the Giant with his helmet off, once in a lifetime. It’s super cool.”

Dietz also posted photos on Facebook of the Gemini Giant being shown to spectators during the festival:

Dietz said the city hopes to have the American Giants Museum in Atlanta, Illinois, restore the Gemini Giant and the city relocate it later this summer (perhaps in July) at South Island Park, just off Route 66.

In March, the Joliet Area Historical Museum placed the winning online auction bid of $275,000 for the fiberglass giant and turned it over to the city. The purchase was made possible through a grant to the museum by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. 

Grafe Auctions auctioned hundreds of other items from the Launching Pad, including its metal “Launching Pad” roof letters, but not the restaurant itself.

Buying and securing the Gemini Giant took on extra urgency when owner Holly Barker threatened to destroy it if it didn’t sell for $100,000.

Barker, whose tweets alternate between her reading Bible verses and posting conspiracy theories, also threatened to kill her former business partner, Tully Garrett, in a Twitter post in January.

Barker and Garrett purchased the shuttered Launching Pad Drive-In in 2017 and reopened it about 18 months later. They closed it during the COVID-19 pandemic and reopened it rarely.

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

John and Bernice Korelc opened the restaurant initially as a Dairy Delite in 1960. They renamed it 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. He retired in 1986.

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

(Image of the Gemini Giant in storage by Wilmington Mayor Ben Dietz)

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