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This 16-minute documentary by Mike Edwards and newly posted on YouTube was made in 1977 to celebrate the Cyclone’s 50th anniversary. It’s fantastic to see the roller coaster in action in the ’70s. The opening sequence features Silvio Pinto, whose family bought and began operating the roller coaster in 1959 before selling it to the City a decade later. The film also stars famed riders Mike Boodley, who rode the Cyclone for 1001 consecutive rides, and Richard Rodriguez, who holds the Guinness World Record for riding the coaster continuously for four days. At the time the film was made, Edwards was a college student in Staten Island. His film was nominated for his school’s “Oscars” and toured NYC Parks with the Parks Foundation’s Filmobile.

As a boy born and raised on three of the 5 boroughs of NYC from 1951 to 1979, a summertime trip to Coney Island was always in the mix. I remember the day while confined to Steeplechase Park, (the grandest kiddie amusement park ever!), when my gaze became transfixed on the world class wooden roller coasters that thundered and squealed off in the distance. I couldn’t wait for the day when I was old enough and big enough to ride these coasters. I measured myself by first getting comfortable riding the Thunderbolt and then the Tornado roller coasters before I felt ready for the Cyclone.

Fast forward to 1977 when I chose the Cyclone to be the subject of a documentary film exercise while attending the very fine Richmond College, an experimental humanities school in the CUNY system, where I was to receive a BA in Cinema Studies. With either a wind-up Bolex 16 or a Bell & Howell Filmo 16mm camera and a 100’ spool of reversal film, I went to visit my subject while under a blanket of snow. Like coming upon a hibernating beast, I kept my distance shooting wide shots without a footprint. Aided by the calm of this early Sunday morning, I could feel a life-force at rest, knowing what was expected of it and what was to unfold in the early spring months. Right there on Surf Avenue, I knew my documentary project would be to explore and maybe expose that this mechanical, inanimate object is actually a being with a distinct personality.

Related posts on ATZ…

September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)

April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

January 5, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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We did not plan to post any more photos of snow. Winter’s done. But yesterday our friend Dutchmazz went for a walk in Coney on the first day of spring and brought back lovely, lovely photos and this atmospheric video. The most exquisite snow is spring snow.

Related posts on ATZ…

February 21, 2015: Video of the Day: The Astotower as Aeolian Harp

February 8, 2015: Video & Photos of the Day: Riding Coney Island’s Abandoned Giant Slide (1973)

December 16, 2013: Video of the Day: Beyoncé’s “XO” Love Letter from Coney Island

August 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Raw Footage of 1960s Coney Island

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Hearing the Astrotower sing on a cold and windy day is one of the lost pleasures of a Coney Island winter. When the former amusement ride was demolished on July Fourth Weekend in 2013, we not only lost a Coney icon but also one of the world’s most unusual musical instruments.

In this video by Jay Singer, shot in March 2013, the mystical tower sings like an Aeolian harp. Commenters say “Magical. Ethereal.” and “Best soundtrack for a horror movie EVER.” Designed to be played by the wind, an Aeolian harp vibrates and produces an eerie sound.

A search on Youtube turns up a slew of videos of Aeolian instruments including composer Philip Blackburn‘s Wind Harps and Wind Flutes in St. Paul, Minnesota. The quirky environmental sound piece was funded by a $10,000 Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. St. Paul is coincidentally one of the few places that still has an operating Von Roll Tower. The Minnesota State Fair’s Space Tower was installed in 1965, the year after Coney Island’s Astrotower.

Related posts on ATZ…

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

July 9, 2013: Photo Album: Remembering the Astrotower (1964-2013)

July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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Happy Lunar New Year! Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year 4713, the Year of the Sheep, based on the Chinese lunar calendar. On Tuesday night, a Grucci fireworks display over the Hudson River launched a week-long celebration of Chinese art and culture in New York City. For the event schedule, visit the website Fantastic Art China. Many thanks to ATZ reader Jim Levine, who sent us his gorgeous photos and video of the fireworks.

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year, February 17, 2015. Photo © Jim Levine

According to the event’s organizer, the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (part of the Chinese Ministry of Culture), this is the first time in U.S. history that a large-scale fireworks show celebrated the Lunar New Year. The three-barge Grucci Fireworks spectacular employed 27 pyrotechnicians and took 972 man hours to set up. Grucci has produced the fireworks entertainment for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, as well as seven consecutive U.S. Presidential Inaugurations, and World’s Fairs.

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year, February 17, 2015. Photo © Jim Levine

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year, February 17, 2015. Photo © Jim Levine

Related posts on ATZ…

February 16, 2015: February 17: Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year

May 30, 2014: Coney Island Fireworks 2014: Fridays Including July 4, Six Saturdays, and More

November 28, 2013: Photo Album: Parachute Jump Lights Way to Year-Round Coney Island

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

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In this home movie shot in Coney Island in March 1973, a group of kids climb through a broken fence and cheerfully ride the heck out of an abandoned giant slide. The cameraman even manages a few POV shots and pans up at the abandoned Parachute Jump next door. The derelict attractions were their playground. The short film, which was posted by YouTube user huntersgodfather, brings to life scenes glimpsed in remarkable documentary photos from the same year by Charles Denson.

Retired arcade operator Stan Fox tells AtZ the Giant Slide was operated for only a few years by longtime Island concessionaires the Garto brothers, who also had rides at Wonderland, the predecessor to Astroland Park.

Arthur Tress Coney Island

1973 Photo by Arthur Tress for Environmental Protection Agency Project DOCUMERICA of abandoned slide in Coney Island


“It was an abandoned slide that went in after Steeplechase was demolished. Please don’t confuse with the original Steeplechase!,” says Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project, who grew up in the neighborhood and recalls the Slide and the Jump being wide open. His photo of kids climbing the stairs to the slide against the backdrop of the neglected and vulnerable Jump appears in his book Coney Island: Lost and Found.

“I first attempted to climb the Parachute Jump in 1973, when it was a rusting, abandoned ruin. It was too dangerous,” says Denson in an intro to his film Climbing the Parachute Jump.

Parachute Kids. Photo ©  Charles Denson

Parachute Kids. Photo © Charles Denson

“In 2002 I finally realized my childhood dream and got to climb to the top of the tower. The Jump was a nature preserve. The motor room base was filled with pigeon nests and covered with muddy footprints of the raccoons who fed on the eggs. A raptor circled us at the top as we disturbed its perch, and the feet of the many small birds it had caught and devoured were spread out across the catwalks.”

Related posts on ATZ…

May 5, 2014: Up for Auction: Andreas Feininger’s Time Lapses of Coney Island Rides

April 18, 2014: British Pathé Releases Historic Newsreels of Coney Island

August 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Raw Footage of 1960s Coney Island

January 13, 2012: Rare & Vintage: Reginald Marsh Photos of Coney Island

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Wish we were there! The 111th Florida State Fair opened on Thursday with Wade Shows midway featuring 114 rides. Among this year’s spectaculars are the new Delusion, owned by Dreamland Amusements, and Jeremy Floyd’s Space Roller, along with popular classics like the Enterprise and the Zipper. Robin D. Colles video of the 2014 midway at night shows many of the rides that have returned this year. The Tampa fair runs through February 16th.

Related posts on ATZ...

August 22, 2013: Traveler: New York State Fair and Minnesota State Fair

February 18, 2013: Round the World and at the Fair with Zamperla’s Air Race

August 9, 2012: Traveler: Skywheel at the Wisconsin State Fair 2012

October 8, 2010: Traveler: Most Beautiful Video of the State Fair of Texas

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Photo © Barry Yanowitz

Coney Island New Years Day Polar Bear Dip, January 1, 2015. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

On January 1st in Coney Island, people came from near and far to welcome the New Year by joining the Polar Bears’ annual dip in the icy Atlantic. “I believe we had approximately 2,500 swimmers participate, very similar to last year,” Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club told ATZ.

The winter bathing, which celebrates its 112th anniversary this year, raised a record amount–more than $70,000– for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses can enjoy a summer vacation. Thomas said he expects the amount to rise a bit more in the coming days. You can make a contribution here through June 30.

Photo © Barry Yanowitz

Coney Island New Years Day Polar Bear Dip, January 1, 2015. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

For Barry Yanowitz, who grew up in Coney Island, taking photos of the Polar Bear Dip is an annual ritual. “It does take a certain amount of crazy to go swimming in NYC in January. But it’s a crazy that I admire!” said the photographer, who waded into the surf with water-proof boots and got a bit soaked taking the above photos. Afterwards, on the beach and the boardwalk, revelers in zany headgear, costumes and accessories reminiscent of the Mermaid Parade happily posed for portraits. You can view Barry’s complete set here.

Brian Dillon sports his perennially popular Coney Island-themed hat

Brian Dillon sports his Coney Island-themed hat. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

For a Coney Island Polar Bear’s eye view of the New Year’s Day Dip, check out this video by club member Jim McDonnell. The Bears, who swim from November through April, went for an early morning swim on New Year’s Day prior to the public festivities.

If you missed the New Year’s Day Dip or want to give it another go, you can join the Polar Bears as a guest for one of their Sunday swims. Here’s how.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 10, 2014: ATZ’s 12 Days of Coney Island Christmas Gift Guide

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

November 28, 2013: Photo Album: Parachute Jump Lights Way to Year-Round Coney Island

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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