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Archive for March, 2013

Surf's Up on the Boardwalk?

Surf’s Up on Coney Island Boardwalk, March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Surfboard parked on the Coney Island Boardwalk? Not exactly, it’s one of the signs that was about to go up on Zamperla’s new Place to BEach Bar (the capital “E” is a pun). The surfboard signage and other finishing touches, including tables and a deck, were being put in place this week at the new bar and Mexican grill on the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue.

Adjacent to Scream Zone, the location was formerly Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island, whose owners were evicted after the 2011 season. Valerio Ferrari, CEO of Zamperla, famously told the New York Times that he wanted something more “refined, cleaner. A little more year-round, if it’s possible, with sit-down restaurants and sports bars.” It’s happening. Last year, the facades of the remaining Boardwalk businesses got a sleek redo and Tom’s proved that a Boardwalk restaurant can stay open through the winter.

PTB Bar

New PTB Bar AKA Place to BEach Bar, Coney Island Boardwalk. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The new “Place to Be” was expected to open Easter weekend along with the Cyclone Cafe and food kiosks inside Luna Park. These venues will be operated by CAI Food LLC, the new food division of Zamperla’s Central Amusement International. An additional CAI restaurant will open in the B&B Carousel Pavilion at Steeplechase Plaza in May.

The opening of PTB Bar and the other CAI eateries marks the amusement park operator and ride manufacturer’s first foray into the food business in Coney Island. Until this season, food service giant Sodexo was Zamperla’s partner for “On Site Service Solutions.” The French multinational, the world’s 22nd largest employer, paid a rental fee to Zamperla. Sodexo kept such a low profile in Coney Island that the only sign we’ve ever seen with their name is the piece of paper at the bottom of this post. It was put up to direct trainees to their restaurant. Yet it was their staff who operated the Cyclone Cafe and the food kiosks since Luna Park opened in 2010.

Sodexo

Food display at Sodexo-operated Cyclone Cafe last summer, June 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

At the time, Ferrari told ATZ that Sodexo was investing $1.4 million in a new sit-down restaurant, which was expected to be year-round and feature waiter service. As it turned out, the Cyclone Cafe was open the same hours as the park and its food offerings were what you’d expect from a corporation with a completely centralized purchasing system, which requires clients to choose from a list of “Right Products.” Sodexo is known for its cafeterias and individually branded restaurants at schools, hospitals, military bases and prisons, but nationally branded subtenants are also brought in under franchising or licensing agreements for the appearance of variety.

Sodexo’s departure had long been rumored and is something to cheer about. According to the partnership agreement, after 3 years either party was free to terminate the lease, with CAI having to reimburse the remaining value of Sodexo’s initial investment, with interest. A Sodexo manager who was working on site with cleanup after Sandy confirmed to ATZ that her company was leaving Coney Island.

Sodexo This Way

Sodexo This Way: Sign directing trainees to Sodexo restaurant in Luna Park, Coney Island. April 12, 2011. Photo © Mr Jones via Amusing the Zillion

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Related Posts on ATZ…

March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day

March 11, 2013: Luna Park’s Pinwheels Go Up on Coney Island Boardwalk

August 29, 2012: Coney Island Has a New Lighthouse: It’s a Beach Bar

November 23, 2010: Meet Sodexo: Luna Park Coney Island’s Partner for “On-Site Service Solutions”

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Spook-A-Rama Cyclops

Spook-A-Rama Cyclops on Display at Coney Island History Project, March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Spook-A-Rama’s vintage Cyclops head is on view at the Coney Island History Project on Sunday along with other artifacts that survived Sandy. The iconic eye is still operational. The eye slyly moves back and forth in the manner of a Kathakali dancer. Meanwhile, the dark ride in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park was carefully rebuilt after flood damage from Sandy and has a fabulous new animatronic dragon atop its roof as seen in this video by Jay Singer.

Spook-A-Rama’s Pretzel cars and track are back and some vintage props were combined with new stunts in a way that remains true to the spirit of Coney’s last classic dark ride. The Cyclops was one of the original figures atop the 1950s ride but it was retired decades ago. The head resurfaced a couple of years ago to be inducted into the Coney Island Hall of Fame and was later put on display in front of Spook-A-Rama. The most recent resident of the dark ride’s roof was a giant skeleton. In the photo below, taken in Wonder Wheel Park just a few weeks after Sandy, you can see Sandy’s high water mark on the Cyclops teeth. The marks are still visible today.

Spook-A-Rama's Cyclops

Spook-A-Rama’s Cyclops Survived the Super Storm. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Coney Island. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

November 21, 2012: Coney Island Post-Sandy: Flooded Spook-A-Rama to Get New Stunts

November 9, 2012: Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy

October 30, 2012: Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island

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12th Street Amusements, Coney Island

Post-Sandy Reconstruction Underway at 12th Street Amusements, Coney Island. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

While Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Luna Park, Scream Zone, the Cyclone and Eldorado Auto Skooters opened on Palm Sunday, post-Sandy recovery was still underway at the Guerrero family’s 12th Street Amusements. A crew working on the Polar Express told ATZ they expect to have the popular Himalaya ride open for Easter Weekend. Their Saturn 6 and Bumper Cars are also expected to reopen by Sunday, but the Ghost Hole dark ride may take a bit longer.

If you’ve never gone for a spin on the Saturn 6, it’s a classic flat ride and a rare find. “Right now, I believe the only one in existence is at Coney Island,” says a ride fan on the CoasterBuzz forum. “Some people think the newer Dartron Hurricane’s are the same thing but the Saturn 6 cars are fastened directly to the arm in a manner so as they do not pivot when they are raised. This is one of those rides you can hear from way down the midway. The loud pop of compressed air being released as the arms raise up & down.”

Here’s a photo of Coney Island’s Saturn 6 in action a few years ago by amusement park photographer Jim McDonnell:

The classic Saturn 6 ride is part of 12th Street Amusements. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

Related Posts on ATZ…

March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day

March 15, 2013: Coney Island Cyclone Getting New Ticket Booths

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

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Palm Sunday in Coney Island

Decorative Palm Bouquets on Palm Sunday in Coney Island. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Palm Sunday is Coney Island’s traditional opening day and some visitors came directly from church with palm fronds in hand to the Blessing of the Rides. And then we spotted these beautiful palm bouquets! Next Sunday, expect to see folks in Easter bonnets and their Sunday best.

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March 21, 2013: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island Meets Miss Coney Island

March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day

December 23, 2012: Photo of the Day: It’s a Wrap at Tom’s Coney Island

June 9, 2011: Photo of the Day: Mango Vendor in Coney Island

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Bob Shoudt AKA Notorious BOB

Bob Shoudt AKA Notorious BOB at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier, Coney Island. March 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Saturday in Coney Island, Nathan’s Famous celebrated the reopening of their Boardwalk eatery and Coney Island’s Opening Weekend with the first hot dog eating qualifying round of the season. The winners were Bob Shoudt AKA “Notorious B.O.B.,” who ate 36 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, and Larell Marie AKA The Real Deal, who ate 17. They will return to Coney to compete on July Fourth, when separate men’s and women’s hot dog eating contests are held in front of the original Nathan’s at Surf and Stillwell, which is being rebuilt after Sandy.

Compared to the hugely attended and tightly choreographed July 4th event televised on ESPN, the qualifier had a refreshingly impromptu air. A couple of “Bunettes,” the ladies who flip the cards indicating the number of franks consumed, had to be recruited from the audience, which consisted of a few hundred people. The event was the first-ever hot dog qualifier held in Coney Island, according to contest organizer and emcee extraordinaire George Shea.

Larell Marie AKA The Real Deal

Larell Marie AKA The Real Deal on her 3rd hot dog at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier, Coney Island. March 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

It was the first qualifier we’ve attended in more than a dozen years. In 2001, we followed Ed “Cookie” Jarvis, Don “Moses” Lerman and “Krazy” Kevin Lipsitz on the hot dog eating circuit, starting with the season’s first qualifier at the Meadowlands, on assignment for a travel magazine. It turned out to be the year that Kobayashi stunned everyone by eating 50 hot dogs and buns on the Fourth of July, doubling the record of the previous year. The article was called “Bet on the Thin Guy.”

After winning yesterday’s qualifier, Shoudt tweeted: “Since 7/4/07 only one man besides myself has won the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest at Coney Island, just sayin’,” He’s referring to current champ and record holder Joey Chestnut, who ate 68 hot dogs and buns in last year’s contest.

If you’re interested in competing in a Nathan’s Famous qualifier, visit Major League Eating to register. Contests are being held in 12 cities, including Savannah, Miami, Las Vegas, St. Paul, Pittsburgh and Boston, before heading back to the New York metro area for qualifiers in Queens and the Meadowlands.

George Shea

George Shea at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier, Coney Island. March 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

March 4, 2013: Nathan’s on Coney Island Boardwalk to Open Mid-March, Surf Ave by May

January 18, 2013: Coney Island 2013: “Water Mania” Spin Ride to Debut at Luna Park

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Miss Coney Island Meets Miss Coney Island

Lefty Lucy, Vice President of Miss Coney Island USA and Dancing Doll Miss Coney Island, May 26, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Looking for a photo of the Tilt-A-Whirl in action, we came across this unpublished pic from last summer that’s too delicious not to share right now. On the left is Lefty Lucy, winner of the Miss Coney Island 2011 title at the burlesque beauty pageant and now Vice President of Miss Coney Island USA. “Miss Coney Island” on the right is the dancing doll whose motto is “Don’t Postpone Joy” and “25 cents to fall in LOVE.”

Coney Island USA’s burlesque beauty pageant was started by Bambi the Mermaid in 2003. Miss Cherry Delight is the titleholder for 2013. The dancing doll known as Miss Coney Island made her debut on Jones Walk in 1998 after a previous career as an Indian Princess automaton at Connecticut’s Danbury Fair. Now located in a window on West 12th Street near the entrance to the Wonder Wheel, the dancing doll and her dancing cat open for the season on Coney Island’s Opening Day, March 24th. Lefty Lucy is teaching a workshop on stage kittening this Saturday at the New York School of Burlesque.

ATZ has previously interviewed both Miss Coney Islands here and here.

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December 8, 2012: Sunday Matinee: Princess Rajah’s Chair Dance (1904)

September 13, 2012: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2012 by Jim McDonnell

August 19, 2012: Dance Video: Coney Island Dancers Street Festival

August 16, 2011: Video of the Day: “IT Girl” Clara Bow in Coney Island

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The Wonder Wheel Cars Were Put Back on the Wheel on Saturday..March 17, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

The Wonder Wheel Cars Were Put Back on the Wheel on Saturday. March 17, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

After being rolled out of winter storage last week, the Wonder Wheel’s cars were put back up on the wheel on Saturday. The annual ritual is the first sign of spring in Coney Island. Being there to see the 24 cars go up, the Swinging ones first and then the Stationary, is like seeing crocuses bloom before your eyes. The date the cars go up is subject to the vagaries of wind, weather and work schedules. This year, we managed to miss seeing it once again! Luckily, Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy was on the Boardwalk when the brackets went up around noon, followed by the red and blue cars. You can see a slide show of his set here. The Wonder Wheel and the rest of Coney Island’s rides go for their first official spin of the season on Palm Sunday, which is just five days away.

Wonder Wheel

Stationary White Cars Ready to Go Up on the Wonder Wheel, March 13, 2013. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park flickr

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Related Posts on ATZ…

March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day

January 25, 2013: Winter’s First Snow in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

September 4, 2010: Go Up, It’s Great! Coney Island’s & Deno’s Wonder Wheel

April 6, 2010: Photo Album: Yes, We’re Open! Easter Sunday in Coney Island

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