Our Story

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Our Story

Hello and Welcome to the Official Website for the Launching Pad Drive-in, Home to the Iconic Gemini Giant on Route 66 in Wilmington, Illinois!


Our names are Tully Garrett and Holly C. Barker. In October 2017 we purchased the Launching Pad Drive-in and over the last two years we have restored the diner back to its original look and feel while adding an Americana mini-museum, Welcome Center, and gift shop full of locally made items perfect for the locals and travelers alike. 

The restaurant started in 1956 as a small hotdog and ice cream shop called the Dari Delite. In 1960 the restaurant was bought by John and Bernice Korlic and 5 years later they renamed the restaurant The Launching Pad Drive-in. To capture the age of the space race between the USA and the Russians, they bought a 28ft. spaceman made by International Fiberglass, California. Through a local contest the new visitor was named the Gemini Giant after the Gemini space missions. The Korlics owned the restaurant, along with their daughter and her husband, and ran it successfully for 47 years until they sold the Launching Pad in 2007. Sadly, the next owner closed the restaurant down after 5 years after which it then sat unkept, dormant and unloved. For another 5 years it was for sale as it deteriorated to the point of almost physical ruin.

Our story is about two people on a journey through life who happen to wander down Route 66 as it was meant to be travelled and found an opportunity to create new good memories. We bought the Launching Pad to live out our dreams. Tully and Holly are blending a family of five – Tully’s two boys and Holly’s son. In the last 5 years we have been through the tragedy of losing our spouses to cancer and now our family is rebuilding this restaurant similarly to how we are rebuilding our lives and moving forward. Our mission is to serve the best food with the friendliest customer service and our goals are to establish fun times though car shows and community events, to hold Grief Anonymous Meetings (Holly’s national online and local Grief Support Organization) in the back of our restaurant, and be a part of the Route 66 Community. We also have our Route 66 Welcome Center for Travelers and our unique gift shop that sells many locally made items and travel resources for the Mother Road. Above all, we love our Gemini Giant! He makes us smile and we enjoy being here just as much as the rest of the world who comes to visit him year after year. 

The renaissance of Route 66 in America is well under way and we are so excited that the Launching Pad Drive-in is playing a part of this historical resurgence. Americans and foreign travelers alike are hearing more and more about the Mother Road’s amazing place in American history and taking the journey of a lifetime from Downtown Chicago all the way to the Santa Monica Pier in California.

For more information about traveling down Route 66 in Illinois, check out these websites for more information: www.illinoisroute66.org, www.enjoyillinois.comwww.heritagecorridorcvb.com.

Take a day or weekend trip down Route 66 and come to Wilmington and visit us. For many people it will be about taking a cruise down memory lane; for others it is a lesson in the history of our country. It is small-town Americana with an amazing past for the whole world to see, and believe us, they come to see Route 66. Best of all, you can create amazing new memories while you are at it!

Forever forward,

Holly C. Barker and Tully Garrett