Posts Tagged ‘Wonder Wheel’

Soapy the Pointer Rides the Wonder Wheel

Soapy the Pointer Rides the Wonder Wheel. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Dogs, parrots, parakeets, snakes, lizards and other pets regularly visit the Coney Island boardwalk with their humans, but this Saturday, May 30, is their special day. On Pet Day at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, your pet is invited to ride the Wonder Wheel’s stationary cars for free (only people require tickets). Dogs especially enjoy the ocean breezes and the passing scenery — it’s similar to riding in a car, except the Wheel moves slowly.

The 5th Annual Pet Costume Contest emceed by the World Famous *BOB* begins at 1pm and is a chance to win prizes as well as a fun photo op. Registration is online at wonderwheel.com or from 11:30-12:30 on the boardwalk across from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, next to the stage. The registration fee is two cans of cat or dog food, which is donated to Sean Casey Animal Rescue. You may also adopt a pet in Coney Island on Pet Day. Sean Casey’s adoption vehicle will be on West 12th Street for the day.

Paquito the Chihuahua and Fluffy the Guinea Pig were among the winners of the Pet Costume Contest in 2012. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Paquito the Chihuahua and Fluffy the Guinea Pig were among the winners of the Pet Costume Contest in 2012. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Related Posts on ATZ…

May 22, 2014: Video of the Day: Parrots Visit Coney Island

September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

June 17, 2013: Photo of the Day: Paquito the Chihuahua in Coney Island

May 8, 2013: Traveler: The Cats of Rimini’s Italia in Miniatura Park

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Miss Colombia

Miss Colombia and Friends in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusement parks kicked off the Memorial Day Weekend on Friday and starting now through Labor Day are open daily. Beach season begins on Saturday when the lifeguards return to their chairs for the summer. ATZ’s personal must-see-and-do list this weekend includes taking photos, having the first lobster roll of the year and a cold beer at Paul’s Daughter on the Boardwalk, peering through an antique stereoviewer at the Coney Island History Project’s exhibit of stereoview photography, checking out the street art-in-progress at Coney Art Walls, taking more photos, and singing Happy 95th Birthday to the Wonder Wheel, which opened on Memorial Day in 1920. One thing we’ve yet to experience in Coney Island is boredom, but tonight at Coney Island USA, we look forward to seeing Dick Zigun’s play “Boredom,” adapted from Maxim Gorky’s essay about his trip to the Electric Eden in 1904. As the original intro to the essay wisely noted: “What is seen depends upon the eye that sees it.” Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Related posts on ATZ…

May 18, 2015: Zamperla’s Power Surge Set to Make A Coney Island Comeback

May 11, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays

April 21, 2015: Coney Island 2015: New York Air Show Set For August 29-30

March 3, 2015: Coney Island 2015: The Whip Returns with a NASCAR Twist

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Deno's Wonder Wheel

Go up it’s Great. Easter Sunday at the Wonder Wheel. April 5, 2015. Photo © Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

“Go up, it’s Great!” is the joyful slogan of the Wonder Wheel painted on its vintage ticket booths. On the evening of May 8th, you could say “Go up, it’s Poetry!” Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open special hours – 7pm-10pm – for Poem-a-Rama, a special event featuring an array of poets reciting poetry to guests as they go up in the cars, plus readings on the ground and book-inspired music by Soozie Hwang & the Relastics.

The first-ever literary soiree in the landmark ride’s 95-year history is a benefit for Parachute Literary Arts’ poetry workshops and community poetry libraries in Coney Island. Advance tickets are $20 and include general admission to the event and a ride with a poet on the Wonder Wheel.

“Coney Island has been a source of inspiration for centuries for artists and poets including Whitman and E.E. Cummings and now contemporary poets,” says Parachute’s founder and artistic director Amanda Deutch. “At the same time I am interested in site specific work.” Past events produced by Parachute have featured poets reading in front of the New York Aquarium’s jellyfish tanks and over the mic at the Eldorado Bumper car ticketbooth on Surf Avenue.

Poets reading on the ground at Poem-a-Rama include Patricia Spears Jones, Lynn Melnick and teen poets from Parachute Literary Arts’ writing workshops. Poets with whom you can ride the Wheel are Parachute Festival alum Matthea Harvey and Edwin Torres, as well as Penny Arcade, Amber Atiya, Paul Blackburn, Kurt Boone, Michael Broder, Brenda Coultas, Ian Dreiblatt, Jen Fitzgerald, Tyehimba Jess, Brenda Iijima, Lucy Ives, Amy King, Wanda Phipps and “a wandering Walt Whitman.”

Deutch’s hope for Poem-a-Rama is for poets and passengers to enjoy a truly unique experience “because of all of it–the ride, the ocean breeze, the intimate nature of such a small reading– the poetry will sink in and reverberate for days to come.”

Advance tickets for Poem-a-Rama are available online for $20 via Parachute Literary Arts. Tickets will be $25 online on May 8th, the day of the event, and at the door. Entrance to the event will be at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park‘s West 12th Street gate at 3059 West 12th between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 13, 2013: Photo of the Day: Swinging on the Wonder Wheel

September 29, 2011: Coney Island Poem from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

September 7, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

September 27, 2009: Coney Island 1969 by Edwin Torres: Fave Poem from Parachute Festival

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Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

The FDNY Color Guard will present the colors and sing the National Anthem at Coney Island’s Opening Day Ceremony. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

There’s a chance of snow showers on Saturday, but it’s expected to be sunny with temps in the 40s on Palm Sunday, when Coney Island’s rides go for their first spin of the season. In celebration of the landmark Wonder Wheel’s 95th year, the first 95 people will get a free ride on Opening Day. The soon-to-be 88-year-old Cyclone roller coaster will as usual offer free rides to the first 100 on line. Erik Knapp aka Mr. Cyclone is once again expected to arrive the night before to be the first on line.

Michael Sarrel, co-owner of Ruby's Bar

Michael Sarrel, co-owner of Ruby’s Bar. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Saturday, the Boardwalk businesses Ruby’s Bar and Lola Star Boutique will welcome customers for the first time since last fall, joining Tom’s Restaurant and Brooklyn Beach Shop, which are already open daily.

Saturday night is Coney Island USA’s spring gala, which is being held at the art organization’s Surf Avenue headquarters on the eve of Coney’s Opening Day. Featuring performances by burlesque and sideshow stars including Mat Fraser of “American Horror Story,” live music, and go go dancers in the Freak Bar, the event runs from 8pm till midnight.

Coney Island USA Freak Bar

Freak Bar at Coney Island USA. Photo © Norman Blake

The annual fundraiser supports Coney Island USA’s Mermaid Parade, Coney Island Circus Sideshow, Burlesque at the Beach, Coney Island Museum and Coney Island Film Festival. General admission of $100 includes unlimited beer, wine, and food. VIP admission of $150 also includes one hour earlier admission at 7pm, Meet and Greet with some of the performers in the V.I.P. Lounge, and gift bags. Tickets may be purchased online until 10pm on Friday. Day of tickets available from 6pm and during the gala at Coney Island USA.

On Palm Sunday, the festivities begin at 10:30am on the Boardwalk with the Blessing of the Rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park by Pastor Debbie Santiago of Coney Island’s Salt and Sea Mission, speeches by elected officials, and the FDNY color guard presenting the Colors and singing the National Anthem. After a ribbon cutting ceremony at Deno’s gate, the gathering moves to the Cyclone roller coaster, which is operated by Luna Park. Brooklyn’s Borough President performs the traditional Egg Cream Christening of the front car of the Cyclone, after which it goes for its inaugural ride of the season.

Chuck Schumer Erik Knapp

Senator Schumer admires Erik Knapp’s Cyclone Tattoo, Opening Day, March 24, 2013. Photo via Luna Park

The Coney Island Circus Sideshow will run continuously on Palm Sunday from 1pm – 8pm. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids under 12.

The Coney Island History Project, located on West 12th Street under the Wonder Wheel sign, will be open special hours from 1pm-6pm for a preview of the 2015 season and free souvenir photos with vintage ride figures. Admission is free of charge.

Also opening on Palm Sunday are 12th Street Amusements and the remaining independent concessions on the Bowery and West 12th Street, including the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island,” the animated windows of “Coney Island Always,” games of skill such as Skin the Wire and Feed the Clown, and Monica, the High Striker Queen of Coney Island.

Coney Island

Monica getting ready to open her High Striker on West 12th Street in Coney Island. March 22, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

March 19, 2015: News and Views: 10 Days Till Coney Island’s Opening Day

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

March 25, 2013: Photo of the Day: Palms on Palm Sunday in Coney Island

March 29, 2012: Photo Album: Looking Back at Coney Island’s Opening Day

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Wilensky Hardware

Wilensky Hardware at 2126 Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, a third-generation family business founded in 1920. October 18, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

This year in Coney Island, Friscia Pharmacy and Wilensky Hardware on Mermaid Avenue and the landmark Wonder Wheel are marking their 95th anniversaries. All three first opened for business in 1920. That’s a remarkable feat of longevity in a City where every day we hear about another small business being pushed out by skyrocketing rent, the influx of chains or rampant redevelopment. According to blogger Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York, who recently launched the #SaveNYC campaign to help Mom & Pops, if you add up all the years in business represented, New York City lost 6,926 years of its history in the dozen years from 2001 to 2013.

What do Coney Island’s 95-year-old Mom & Pops have in common? One is still owned by its founding family while the other two were sold to new owners decades ago. All “own the premises,” as Carnegie Deli founder Milton Parker famously recommended in his 2005 memoir. Nowadays, that advice has almost become a prerequisite for survival in New York City.

Wilensky Hardware at 2126 Mermaid Avenue has been owned and operated by three generations of the Wilensky family. “It was started by my wife’s grandfather Samuel Wilensky in 1920,” says Steve Feinstein. Asked if he had any unusual and obsolete pieces of hardware that he could show us, he said the store used to supply Steeplechase Park with bolts up to 1″ x 36″. Unfortunately, everything in the store, including the old stock, was ruined by Hurricane Sandy.

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, at 1505 Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Down the block at 1505 Mermaid Avenue is Friscia Pharmacy, “The Oldest in Coney Island,” as a sign at its entrance proudly proclaims. The banner on the side of the building celebrating the store’s 94th anniversary caught our eye last year and inspired this story. Pharmacist Anthony Morano tells us he has been there 42 years. His partner Frank Giordano retired in 2014 after five decades of service to the community.

It was Giordano who bought the pharmacy from Anthony Friscia in 1960. While we were in the store, business was brisk and an old-timer told ATZ that there had been another owner before Friscia. A druggists directory from 1921 reveals that his name was S. Gentile. Giordano says the apothecary jars they once used to make ointments, as well as measuring scales and other antique items were destroyed when the pharmacy was flooded by Sandy and had to be rebuilt.

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, “The Oldest in Coney Island.” March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Wonder Wheel was built by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company in 1920 and designated an official New York City landmark in 1989. Today it is owned and operated by the second and third generations of the Vourderis family. The family patriarch, for whom “Denos D. Vourderis Place” (West 12th Street between the Boardwalk and the Bowery) is named, bought the Wheel 32 years ago this June.

A popular spot for engagement photos, the Wheel has a very romantic history: When Denos D. Vourderis was a hot dog vendor in the 1940s, he promised his sweetheart Lula that he would buy the Wonder Wheel for her as a wedding present if she would marry him. She said yes and he was able to buy the Wheel in 1983 when it was offered for sale by Fred Garms, whose father Herman was its first owner-operator. The Vourderis family restored the Wheel and made it the centerpiece of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.

“It takes a lifetime of devotion, hard work, and dedication to preserve this wonderful landmark attraction,” co-owner Steve Vourderis told Amusement Today on the 90th anniversary of the Wheel. “We have a responsibility to ourselves, our family and most of all to dad to make sure its legacy lives on. It also helps to love what you do.”

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. August 9, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Turning 95 is a milestone but this trio of businesses have neighbors who have been around even longer. The original Nathan’s Famous, which will celebrate its centennial in 2016, is the City’s oldest hot dog stand and holds the City’s oldest beer license. Across Surf Avenue on West 15th Street is the 108-year-old Gargiulo’s Restaurant. Founded by Gus Gargiulo and owned by the Russo brothers since 1965, it serves classic Neapolitan cuisine and hosts special events from dinner dances and weddings to the annual Alliance for Coney Ialand Gala.

Two slightly younger neighbors are in their 80’s: The famed Totonno’s Pizzeria on Neptune Avenue since 1924 is on every list of The Ten Best Pizzas in New York City. The world-famous Cyclone Roller Coaster was built in 1927 by the Rosenthal brothers, saved from demolition by Astroland Park’s Dewey Albert in 1975 and is now operated by Luna Park.

For more info on Vanishing New York’s #SaveNYC, a crowd-sourcing campaign that aims to protect small businesses by passing long-stalled legislation in the City Council and starting a Cultural Landmarks Program, visit the website or join the Facebook group.

Gargiulo's Restaurant

Gargiulo’s Restaurant on West 15th Street in Coney Island. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

UPDATE March 11, 2015:

Thanks to photographer Lisanne Anderson for sending us her lovely photos of Friscia Pharmacy’s storefront taken five years ago, when they were celebrating their 90th anniversary. Note the neon signs!

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, on their 90th anniversary. Photo © Lisanne Anderson

Friscia Pharmacy

Prescriptions Sign at Friscia Pharmacy, on their 90th anniversary in 2010. Photo © Lisanne Anderson

Related posts on ATZ…

January 20, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park Adds Scrambler, ‘Twist & Shout’ Drop Tower

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

March 5, 2013: Coney Island’s Mermaid Avenue Four Months After Sandy

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

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Lola Star Boutique

Getting ready for Coney Island’s season at the Lola Star Boutique in Stillwell Terminal. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Never mind the snow, it’s only two weeks till spring! This week in Coney Island, the Boardwalk was alternately icy and snowy, and the majority of businesses in the amusement area were shut tight, but glimpses of spring could be seen. In Stillwell Terminal, Dianna Carlin was moving back into her Lola Star Boutique after spending the winter at a pop up shop in Williamsburg. Her second store is on the Boardwalk. Coney Island’s Opening Day is just a few weeks away on March 29 because Palm Sunday is early this year.

Eldorado Arcade

Getting ready for the season at the Eldorado Arcade on Coney Island’s Bowery. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The front of the Eldorado Arcade was open as workers readied the arcade machines for the first event of the new season–DJ Nicky Siano’s 60th birthday party on March 20. Siano, who was a resident DJ at Studio 54, was drawn to Coney Island by the Eldorado Auto Skooter’s legendary sound system built by Richard Long of the Paradise Garage and Studio 54. “We will be dancing on the floor (not riding),” say party organizers, who are selling advance tickets online for $25. The arcade will be operating and Nicky will be spinning all night.

Wonder Wheel cars

Freshly painted Wonder Wheel cars will soon be put back on the Wheel. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

At Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, the new Whip-inspired Speedway ride was being assembled while the freshly painted Wonder Wheel cars were lined up inside the shop. Spring officially arrives in Coney Island when the cars are put back up on the Wheel. As we’ve noted before, being here to see the 24 cars go up, the Swinging ones first and then the Stationary, is like seeing red, white and blue crocuses bloom before your eyes. The date the cars go up is subject to the vagaries of wind, weather and work schedules, but it’s usually a week or so before Opening Day.


Celebrity burger chain Wahlburgers is under construction and set to open in May. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The green sign on Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue storefront across from Nathan’s says “Coming Spring 2015 – Wahlburgers – Our Family – Our Story – Our Burgers.” Coney Island is getting a concentration of new franchises, including IHOP, Checkers and Subway Cafe, that threaten to turn Surf Avenue into Anytown USA. Wahlburgers has a niche of its own. It will bring the celebrity brothers Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg to Coney Island to film the restaurant’s opening for their A&E reality show. When ATZ first reported the news last year of Wahlburgers coming to Coney, the post was nearly as popular as Friday night fireworks! The restaurant will be the first of seven Wahlburgers franchises slated to open in New York City. Construction is underway with a May 1st opening date announced.

Piece of Velvet

Cake pops at newly opened Piece of Velvet Cake & Cupcake Shop on Surf Avenue, Coney Island. March 2, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem, opened in Coney Island on Valentine’s Day. Owned by a “staff collective” of former Cake Man Raven employees, tThe store is located on the north side of Surf across the street from Nathan’s and Williams Candy. Red velvet cakes and cupcakes are their specialty and are delicious. Check for introductory specials on Groupon.

While Nathan’s outdoor dining area is still covered in snow, plenty of indoor seating is available during the off-season. Last weekend, one of the first qualifiers for the July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest was held at the Florida Strawberry Festival. The winning contestants were Nasty Nate Biller of Texas, who downed 23 dogs in 10 minutes, and Mary Bowers of California, with 10.

Sign for Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Sign for 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s Outdoor Dining Area. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

March 3, 2015: Coney Island 2015: The Whip Returns with a NASCAR Twist

February 22, 2015: Coney Island Amusement Park Jobs from Entry Level to Managerial Up for Grabs

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

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

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Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki.

Out of Disorder (ConeyIsland) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki. Asia Society Museum, thru April 26, 2015

The 150-foot tall steel Wonder Wheel inspired Takahiro Iwasaki’s ethereal ten-inch tall sculpture made of fibers pulled from the beach towels on which it is perched! The miniature landscape also includes neighboring Coney Island landmarks the Parachute Jump and Cyclone.

Created in 2012 during the Hiroshima-based artist’s International Studio and Curatorial Program residency in Brooklyn, “Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012” is among the works on view at Asia Society in the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. A newly commissioned piece created from kimono fibers takes its inspiration from a pair of 17th century Japanese folding screens from the Asia Society Museum Collection and will be shown alongside the six-panel screens.

Asia Society Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am-6pm and on Friday from 11am– 9pm. General admission is $12, seniors $10, students $7, and admission is free for members and persons under 16. Free admission Friday evenings, 6pm – 9pm.

“Takahiro Iwasaki: In Focus,” January 27 thru April 26, 2015 at Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue New York, NY, 212-288-6400

Related posts on ATZ…

December 13, 2014: Art of the Day: David Levine’s Watercolors of Coney Island

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

May 22, 2013: Art of the Day: Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm

September 17, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

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