Courtland youth finalists in pretzel rollercoaster building contest

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, July 9, 2011

WILLIAMSBURG—Thirteen-year-old James Williams hopes his rollercoaster riding experience will give him an edge in a Thursday contest.

Justin Heiser and James Williams built this rollercoaster from pretzels. -- SUBMITTED

That’s when James and his friend Justin Heiser, 13, will have three hours to build from pretzels a replica of the Loch Ness Monster rollercoaster at Busch Gardens.

“I’m kind of nervous that we might not finish in time,” Justin said.

The Courtland boys are the youngest among six finalists in the third annual Pretzel Coaster Build-Off Contest, which will be held at the amusement park in Williamsburg. One finalist is last year’s champion, Jennifer Westcott of Wayne, N.J.

Contestants will be judged by experts from Busch Gardens, a pretzel expert from Snyder’s of Hanover and a rollercoaster fan from the American Coaster Enthusiasts club.

The winner will receive a year’s supply of Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels and a four-pack of two-year 2-Park passes for Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

For James and Justin, it all started when Southampton Middle School teacher Jane Stephenson asked her gifted students to build a rollercoaster out of pretzels for their open house.

“They could use any size, the big thick pretzel rods, the little curly ones, the little sticks, and a hot glue gun and their imagination,” said Megan Heiser, who is Justin’s mom.

The boys spent about 10 hours working on the rollercoaster during and after school.

“At first, James decided we should do a California gold rush — do a mining thing,” said Justin, who is also the son of Michael Heiser. “I was like ‘I don’t know, that might be a little too much,’ and said ‘let’s just do a volcano and make it come out of the top of the volcano.’”

The boys used thousands of pretzels, including 250 for the “big drop.”

Stephenson took photos of the coaster and submitted them for the contest, which resulted in the boys’ becoming finalists.

“I was kind of surprised but knew we did a good job,” said James, the son of Jim and Kim Williams.

Before building their coaster on Thursday, the boys will be given 30 minutes to ride the Loch Ness Monster.