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Archive for August, 2009

Its still summer...Coney Island is open! Fun for All. Image © brooklynnfoto via flickr

It's still summer...Coney Island is open! Fun for All. Image © brooklynnfoto via flickr

Thanks to graphic designer and Coney Island regular “brooklynnfoto” for creating this impromptu ad for Coney Island. I discovered it on flickr along with the caption “43 rides, a host of attractions…and Nathan’s cheese fries.”

Last week ATZ posted “Coney Island is Open, Only Dreamland is Closed” in response to media coverage of the closure of Dreamland Park that left many people with the impression all of Coney Island was shutdown. Since then, we’ve been barraged by search referrals asking “is Coney Island open?” and “is Coney Island closing?”

Thumbs down to the Brooklyn Paperthumbs down for doing three stories on the closing of Dreamland without even mentioning the fact that the rest of Coney Island is open for business and the attractions that remain. “Coney Island’s biggest amusement park will remain closed this weekend….” begins the Brooklyn Paper’s latest article about the closing of Dreamland. As someone who works in Coney Island I’m very concerned people will think it’s not worth a visit because “the biggest park” is closed. Notified that Dreamland (12 rides) was NOT Coney’s largest park– Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (22 rides) has that honor– BP has yet to run a correction.

The article’s quote from an outraged visitor contains an error, too. “It’s not right to close down in the middle of the season,” said Richard Vowers of Sheepshead Bay. “It’s going to disappoint a lot of kids. My girlfriend’s son likes the helicopter ride and the train ride.”We have good news for you, Mr. Vowers. The rides mentioned -–the helicopter and the kiddie train—were never in Dreamland. These rides are in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park which is open through mid-October and will be here for years to come!

Kiddie Helicopter Ride at Denos Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Kiddie Helicopter Ride at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thumbs Up to NY1 and the Daily News…
thumsb upNY1 made the same mistake of calling Dreamland “Coney Island’s largest amusement park,” but promptly ran a correction when informed of their error. The Daily News article about the closing of Dreamland quoted the park’s manager saying “Coney Island’s closed now.” But the reporter noted, “That’s not quite true: The Cyclone, Wonder Wheel, and other popular Coney attractions are still up and running.” Thank you!

For year round, up-to-date info on events and attractions, visit Coney Island Fun Guide.

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$95K Will Buy You the Dragon Wagon from Michael Jacksons Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

$95K Will Buy You the Dragon Wagon from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Got an extra $95,000 lying around? You could celebrate Michael Jackson’s August 29th birthday in style by acquiring one of his carnival rides from Neverland Ranch. After spending the summer at Thor Equities Dreamland Park in Coney Island, the Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster from Jackson’s private amusement park is being advertised for sale on usedrides.com. Since Dreamland closed and is unlikely to reopen (see “Coney Island is Open, Only Dreamland is Closed”), the ride’s owner decided to sell the Wisdom Dragon Wagon rather than truck it all the way back to California. ATZ spoke with Candy Strong, who placed the ad for the coaster and three other rides owned by Butch Butler of California-based Butler Amusements.

“It cost him $55,000 to bring them here. It would be beneficial and less stressful for him not to take anything back,” said Candy, who with her husband John Strong operated “The Strangest Show on Earth” in Coney Island’s Dreamland this season. Since Butler is busy with four state fairs running concurrently–the California State Fair, Western Idaho State Fair, Eastern Idaho State Fair, and Washington State’s Evergreen State Fair–Candy Strong took on the job of advertising the rides. The Strongs have been friends with Butler for over 30 years and were the ones who got him to bring the rides here from California.

For Sale on Usedrides.com: the Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch

For Sale on Usedrides.com: the Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch

When ATZ spoke with Butler earlier this season, he told us about some of the rides he’d purchased from Michael Jackson’s ranch last year. One of the Jackson rides happened to be among the four sent to “test market” Coney Island. The Dreamland Dragon Wagon’s history was not initially publicized, but Jackson’s death in June thrust the former Neverland rides at carnivals and parks across the country into the media spotlight. Butler had hoped to put his kiddie rides in Thor Equities “Flea by the Sea” tents on Stillwell Avenue for the Christmas season.

For Sale in Dreamland: Dragon Wagon from Michael Jacksons Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

For Sale in Dreamland: Dragon Wagon from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“Like everybody, Butch thought there was an opportunity for another year. Or two or three. But now it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” Candy said as she and her husband were getting ready to leave New York for a Tennessee fair. Coney Island’s Dreamland Park was abruptly locked down last weekend due to a dispute between property owner Thor Equities and the park manager, but Butler’s rides are still set up and may be viewed by prospective buyers, Candy said. The other three rides for sale are not from Neverland Ranch. The additional rides are the Star Dancer, a 101-foot tower ride by Larsen International ($250,000) a Barrango carousel with horses and menagerie animals ($125,000), and an interactive play zone called Jungle of Fun ($85,000). I made a flickr set of Butler’s rides in Coney Island in case anyone wants to check them out.

Butler Amusements Carousel in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Butler Amusements Carousel in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

At the California State Fair through Sept 7: Balloon Samba Ride from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

At the California State Fair through Sept 7: Balloon Samba Ride from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

Meanwhile at the California State Fair, which runs through September 7, the King of Pop’s amusement rides are in the spotlight thanks to a “Fairgoers Can’t Beat It!” promotion. On Fridays, Butler Amusements gives the first 5,000 visitors to the state fair a “golden ticket” good for a free ride on one of four rides from Neverland. The rides are the Balloon Samba, Jeeps, Wave Swinger and Dinosaurs. According to the fair’s press release, the Dinosaur ride features a total of eight revolving dinosaurs and elephants that riders can control to make the animal go up or down.

Here in Brooklyn, filmmaker Spike Lee’s party in honor of Michael Jackson’s 51st birthday is set for Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. in Prospect Park. Here’s the invite to the free event, which will feature DJ Spinna spinning Jackson music and Brooklyn Borough Prez Marty Markowitz declaring August 29th “Michael Jackson Day.”

At the California State Fair through Sept 7: Wave Swinger from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

At the California State Fair through Sept 7: Wave Swinger from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

Update, December 26, 2011…

The Neverland Bumper cars were permanently installed at Cal Expo in Sacramento for which Butler Amusements provides the carnival for the California State fair. The other rides from Neverland Ranch–Lolli Swings, Jeeps, Dinos, Balloon Samba and Dragon Wagon– travel with the carnival’s different units, which play events in seven states in the West.

Neverland Bumper Cars

The Neverland Bumper Cars, owned by Butler Amusements, were first installed at Cal Expo for the California State Fair in July 2011. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements.

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

August 5, 2009: Coney Island Has 56 Rides and 33 More Days of Summer!

July 8, 2009: Coney Island Wish List: Michael Jackson’s Bumper Car Ride for Sale on eBay

June 30, 2009: Calif. Carnival Sends Rides to Coney Island….Including One from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch

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Giantess Banner Painted for John Strongs Sideshow in Dreamland Park, Coney Island.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Giantess Banner Painted for John Strong's Sideshow in Dreamland Park, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The $600,000 question is why did an allegedly savvy businessman like Thor CEO Joe Sitt let more than half a million in allegedly overdue rent go unpaid until just two weeks before the end of the season? ATZ bets there’s more to this story than we’ve read in the papers.

On Sunday night the word from the locked down Dreamland was John Strong had torn down and packed up his “Strangest Show on Earth” and would be leaving Coney Island on Monday Tuesday evening for a Tennessee fair. Though the sideshow operator failed to “Save Coney Island” as boasted, we’ll forgive him because the front of his Strange Girls show was gorgeous in a retro sort of way. The bannerline evoked an earlier Dreamland Circus Side Show’s circa 1926 banners by Coney Island’s Millard & Bulsterbaum. Strong’s banners were painted by Jorge Rivero and Coney Island’s Takeshi Yamada, who also operated a freak baby show featuring his fantastical creations.

Over the weekend Dreamland Park was abruptly locked down by Thor Equities because of a rent dispute with the park’s manager. At 2 a.m on Friday morning, guards from Epic Security stormed in, cut the locks on the gates and took control of the property. In the morning Thor’s pr guy Stefan Friedman notified the media: “Dreamland has been locked out because it has not come close to meeting its financial obligations in many months. We are hopeful that Dreamland will soon pay its rent so it can quickly re-open the rides and allow Coney Islanders and visitors to continue enjoying what has been a spectacular summer so far.”

Night Shot of Banner Painted by Jorge Rivero and Takeshi Yamada for John Strongs Strange Girls Show. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Night Shot of Banner Painted by Jorge Rivero and Takeshi Yamada for John Strong's Strange Girls Show. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Coney Island Rumor Mill offers the following scenario: Perhaps no one owes Thor $600,000. Perhaps it’s a ruse to enable Thor CEO Joe Sitt to get rid of his carnival tenants asap and deliver the property vacant to the City. If that story sounds crazy, it’s no crazier than the scenario offered by Thor’s spokesman. A deal to sell most of the land including the Dreamland site to the City was expected when the Coney rezoning passed in City Council at the end of the July. At the time the NY Times said that Sitt would keep only the property at Surf & Stillwell. This land was rezoned for a high rise hotel. But that news is already three weeks old and no announcements have been made yet. Mayor Mike is running for re-election and time is running out for him to be able to claim he “Saved Coney Island” and win our vote!

Is the Coney Island dream over for the amusement operators who came from Georgia, Florida and Texas to Thor Equities Dreamland Park? Over the weekend rumor had it the carnival equipment was being held hostage by Thor Equities, but we’ve also heard folks are free to leave. While John Strong was spreading the word about a “breakout attempt” with monster trucks crashing through the gate, Glen Geren and some of the other amusement operators said they’d be sticking around. They’d paid their rent to Dreamland’s manager and were waiting to see if the park would reopen after today’s scheduled court hearing.

UPDATE 8/25: No “official” word yet about what happened in court. I’m kind of surprised the NY Post didn’t cover it! The Coney Island Rumor Mill says the judge is expected to make a decision on Wednesday. But the folks inside Dreamland say that they were told the park will reopen. With all the twists and turns we’ve been through in Coney, I find it hard to believe anything until I see it with my own eyes.

John Strong already packed up and tore down his sideshows and is set to leave tonight for Tennessee. Anthony sent someone over yesterday to beg them to stop working and put the show back in the building, but John Strong had already made the decision to load up and go. If and when Dreamland reopens, it will be minus two sideshows.

UPDATE 8/28 When I talked with Geren yesterday he said they have one more shot with the NY Supreme court today. Everyone is waiting till then to start tearing down. But there was a lot of hoopla on Thursday because Thor’s people said to clear out by midnight tonight! What they meant was people who were not ride help. Whatever happens next, remember there’s a lot more to this story than what we’ll read in the papers in the coming days.

Yes, ATZ has photos of “Closed” signs hanging on Dreamland’s gate, but we’d rather end this post with a photo of our friend Takeshi Yamada whose studio is in Coney Island. And a very important reminder: While Thor Equities “Dreamland Park” is currently closed, Coney Island still has 43 rides including the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel open for business. There’s also the Ringling Bros. Boom A Ring Circus, Coney Island USA‘s Circus Sideshow and Burlesque, Dreamland Roller Rink, the Coney Island History Project and much more to enjoy.

Artist and Coney Island Resident Takeshi Yamada Created a Mermaid Baby and other Freak Babies for his Sideshow in Dreamland.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Artist and Coney Island Resident Takeshi Yamada Created a Mermaid Baby and other Freak Babies for his Sideshow in Dreamland. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 29, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

January 31, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Freak Museum to Lease Coney’s Oldest Building

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