Current Issue / DU Alumni

Adam Spivak’s wild ride

In just 24 hours, Adam Spivak, BA ’84, rode 75 different roller coasters. He raised more than $50,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network and earned himself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records at the same time.

Late one muggy August night in 2001, four grown men boarded a New Jersey roller coaster called the Dragon Wagon and buckled up for the ride. There was only one problem: The Dragon Wagon is a kiddie coaster and couldn’t pull the weight. So, two men got out and pushed. Then, they switched.

Why’d they do it? For charity and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Dragon Wagon was just one of 75 different roller coasters the men rode in a 24-hour period, crushing the previous mark of 40. Adam Spivak, BA hotel and restaurant management ’84, helped organize the coaster effort—the first of his two world records.

Spivak is the Philadelphia VP of operations for Clear Channel Entertainment. He and friend Phil Guarno dreamed up the coaster stunt as a way to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network, an organization that funds children’s hospitals. (Guarno’s 12-year-old daughter Melissa is a cancer survivor.)

Spivak gained his experience in handling event logistics as part owner of Electric Factory Concerts, which his father co-founded. Clear Channel bought the company in 2000. Spivak’s operational skills were an asset in coordinating the intricate details of the coaster-riding event.

He and Guarno secured the use of two helicopters to shuttle them quickly between venues. Parks ushered them to the front of the line, and a few even opened early for them. The stunt raised more than $50,000.

Spivak most enjoyed the coasters with “a tremendous amount of speed and one or two great drops.” One of his favorites is the Batman ride at Six Flags Baltimore, which positions riders as if they’re flying.

In 2003, Guarno had an idea for their next achievement—the world’s longest consecutive line of Hershey’s Kisses. Since this was a new record, it needed to be significant.

“We didn’t want to do 100 feet or 50 yards,” Spivak says. “We wanted to do something no one would ever try again.”

The pair convinced Hershey’s to donate almost half a million Kisses and use of their Giant Center Arena parking lot in Hershey, Pa. Spivak and Guarno sold sponsorships of anywhere from 1/8 to 1/2 of a mile. On the morning of the event, some 150 volunteers and sponsors laid out more than 294,000 chocolates in the shape of a giant Kiss.

The line was more than 4 miles long.

Spivak and Guarno battled 100-degree heat to earn their coaster-riding record, but this time, the weather was on their side—barely. “It had been drizzling,” Spivak recalls. “It was supposed to rain all morning, but it stopped by the time we started. Also, it was May. God forbid it had been 95 degreesinstead of 65. It could have been melting all over the place.”

Spivak and Guarno once again raised more than $50,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network, and then they and the volunteers enjoyed the tastiest part—the chocolate.

“I took about four or five cases home myself,” Spivak says. Ever the operations manager, he planned carefully. “The ride home was very chocolate-filled. But after a while, we got tired of them. So I stored them properly and gave them away for Halloween.”

Now, Spivak and Guarno are mulling over their next record-breaking effort. They have considered organizing the world’s largest game of musical chairs, but one detail stands in their way: “We can’t figure out how to guarantee 10,000 people showing up,” Spivak laments. “The record’s around 7,500 now. We can get the stadium and the seats, but what if just 6,900 people show up?

“Until we figure that out, we’ll be on to another thought.”

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