Route 66′s Iconic ‘The Launching Pad’ Opens Saturday

Wilmington restaurant home to famed fiberglass and tasty ice cream treats

One of Route 66′s most legendary restaurants, Wilmington’s own The Launching Pad, is set to reopen of their 2022 season - just in time for The Illinois Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor events!

This 50-plus-year-old Mother Road institution is serving up a truncated menu of delicious cold treats and tasty appetizers, as they gear up towards offering a full menu of hot entrees in the near future. This weekend, you’ll find fan-favorites like the mammoth “1 Pound Milkshake” and Dole whip, alongside a full range of ice cream, shakes, pies, sodas and select appetizers.

While you’re there, be sure to scope out their souvenir shop - one of the best selections on the entire Route, featuring locally made items and a mini-museum, which boasts unique artifacts from Hollywood and classic rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. Most of all, don’t miss a chance to snap a photo with the larger-than-life Gemini Giant!

One of the many iconic “Muffler Men” sculptures that dot Route 66 and other historic routes across the country, the Gemini Giant is beloved for its unique space-age theming and quirky color palette. These molded fiberglass advertising giants, named after the mufflers the original statues held in their hands, have become a staple of Americana since their creation in the early 1960s by boatbuilder Steve Dashew and his International Fiberglass company.

While thousands of these Goliath-sized figures would be scattered across the country in the decade they were produced, few have built up the beloved fan base of the Gemini Giant. Named after the Gemini space program, this custom fiberglass figure sports a silver, torpedo-like astronaut helmet and, instead of a muffler, holds a rocket ship in his hands.

The 438-pound giant originally was purchased by Dari-Delight owners John and Bernice Korelc in the mid-’60s. Seeing an opportunity, they rebranded their restaurant The Launching Pad to fit with the Gemini Giant’s theming and symbolize the kickoff to countless Route 66 journeys.

While many Muffler Men across the nation disappeared, the Gemini Giant always remained in place. In 2017, Holly Barker and Tully Garrett purchased The Launching Pad restaurant, and pledged to return the iconic giant to its former glory. Within a year, a beautifully restored Gemini Giant was unveiled on its original parking lot pedestal.

The popular photo op can be found along Historic Route 66/East Baltimore Street on the north end of Wilmington, about 50 miles from the start of the route.

The Launching Pad can be found at 810 E. Baltimore St. in Wilmington.

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