National Roller Coaster Day is celebrated every year on Aug. 16, highlighting the loops, twists and drops that have people flocking to amusement parks every summer.
Aug. 16 has been selected as the attraction’s national day since 1986. The date was chosen because that is the day back in 1898 that the first looping roller coaster was patented by Edwin Prescott.
The oldest roller coasters, though, far pre-date even that year.
According to the National Roller Coaster Museum, the first editions of what could be considered roller coasters were known as Russian Mountains.
These were specially built ice hills that people around St. Petersburg, Russia, would use to slide down.
It was reported that Russian queen Catherine II was such a fan that she even had a few of these mountains built on the grounds of her palace.
While the first roller coaster with wheels is up for debate, the museum said that the first coaster on a track may have been created in St. Petersburg in 1784, though other historians believe the first was not built until 1812 in Paris.
In the late 1800s, patents began to be issued for roller coaster-type rides at New York City’s famous Coney Island, which would become the precursor to modern roller coasters.
Today, roller coasters are intricate pieces of machinery, often extending hundreds of feet into the air, with loops and turns that people will often wait hours in line just to experience despite some of the risks.
There are nearly 800 roller coasters in the United States, including the tallest in the world, Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., which stands at a whopping 456 feet.
While this may be the tallest ride, the world’s fastest roller coaster is not actually in the United States.
That title belongs to Formula Rossa at the Ferrari World amusement park in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which launches to a top speed of 149.1 miles per hour.
Beyond the adrenaline thrills, some roller coasters may even be good for certain people.
According to WKMG-TV in Florida, “some research has shown the shaking of a coaster can help loosen kidney stones and make them easier to pass,” though a medical consensus has not been reached.
Besides roller coasters, a number of other special holidays are celebrated on Aug. 16.
This includes National Rum Day, which highlights the historic spirit, as well as National Tell-A-Joke Day.