Giant stuffed animals are riding this famous California roller coaster during the coronavirus shutdown

The "Giant Dipper" rollercoaster in San Diego's Belmont Park is strapping in stuffed animals during maintenance checks. (Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Park)

An amusement park in San Diego that closed for the coronavirus pandemic is running its famous roller coaster with stuffed animals as “passengers” in daily maintenance tests.

Belmont Park’s “Giant Dipper,” a 2,600 foot-long roller coaster that’s been in operation since the 1920s, closed down to follow California’s health recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. But in order to keep the equipment lubricated and calibrated, the stomach-dropping ride must run loops every morning before the park opens. But with the grounds empty, “bored” staff in need of a laugh have been strapping large stuffed animals into the six, four-person cars to represent guests.

Daniela Bower, a senior marketing manager for Belmont Park, tells Yahoo Life that the furry riders, including a rainbow llama, a purple elephant and a tower of giraffes, ride every 30 minutes from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. “We’ve gotten awesome feedback from the community and on social media,” she says. “Everyone loves it because it spreads joy.”

The Giant Dipper at California's Belmont Park has substituted stuffed animals for passengers to run maintenance checks during the coronavirus shutdown. (Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Park)

The roller coaster was originally built in less than two months and for $150,000, according to the park’s website. And along with The Plunge (at the time, the largest salt-water pool in the world), was designed as the space’s centerpiece. But in the late 1960s, the rides needed serious repairs and the coaster became an “eyesore.” Eventually, Belmont Park was shut down in 1976.

In 1990, the Giant Dipper got a 2 million-dollar makeover and today it holds the “main attraction” title. On July 4, the roller coaster will turn 95 years old, and although a re-open date has not been established, Belmont Park is brainstorming how to keep passengers safe and at a socially distance. One idea, in addition to more sanitation, is to place a stuffed animal in between each passenger.

“We wanted to be creative,” Bower tells Yahoo Life. “It’s our most popular ride.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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