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Posts Tagged ‘Blessing of the Rides’

Pastor Debbe Santiago

Pastor Debbe Santiago of Coney Island’s Salt and Sea Mission with Miss Coney Island. April 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island lost an angel and heaven gained one on Thursday. Pastor Debbe Santiago, who founded Coney’s Salt and Sea Mission over 30 years ago, passed away after battling cancer. The wake will be on Thursday, February 11, from 12pm- 5pm, followed by a funeral service from 5pm -6pm at the Salt and Sea Mission, located at 2417 Stillwell Avenue. A memorial service will be held at MCU Park, 1904 Surf Avenue from 6-7pm.

Pastor Debbe’s experience as a former homeless drug addict who turned her life around after reading the Bible gave her deep empathy and compassion for all.

“Debbe Santiago was a saint who helped the helpless, fed the hungry, protected at-risk children, and ministered to the downtrodden of Coney Island,” wrote Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who posted video clips of a sermon at the mission that he filmed. In the intro, Santiago explains that Salt was for salt of the earth, and Sea was for Coney Island’s sea. “Sea also refers in the Book of Revelations to the masses, and we have masses of needy people in Coney Island.”

Every Palm Sunday for the past 30 years, Pastor Debbe has officiated at the Blessing of the Rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park on Coney’s Opening Day. The ceremony consists of a prayer of invocation as well as the Fire Department Color Guard, speeches by elected officials and a ribbon cutting, followed by free rides, toys and Easter bags for children from the Salt and Sea Mission.

In the following video recorded at the 2015 ceremony, Santiago explains how the annual tradition got started. She asked Deno Vourderis, the park’s founder, if she could bring some kids from the Mission to ride the rides. “And he asked if I had 500,” she says.

This year, Coney Island’s Palm Sunday opener will be on March 20th. “The Vourderis family is deeply saddened by the loss of our lifelong friend Debbe Santiago,” said Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park co-owner Dennis Vourderis in a statement. “She will be missed, and we know she will be watching over all of Coney Island because that’s where her love lived and benefited us all.”

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March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

May 19, 2011: Rest in Peace: Rabbi Abraham Abraham’s Synagogue Was the Beach

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

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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

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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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Mangels Ponycart

Mangels Pony Cart from Ride at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. March 21, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

This freshly painted little pony from the classic Mangels Pony Cart at Deno’s Kiddie Park will soon be back on the ride’s platform. In the meantime, he appears to be chomping at the bit for Coney Island’s Opening Day. It’s only 15 days away! The Palm Sunday opener, featuring the Blessing of the Rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the ceremonial Egg Cream Christening of the front car of the Cyclone, is April 13th.

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February 28, 2014: Photo Album: Wonder Wheel Park Preps for Coney Island’s Opening Day

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

July 4, 2012: Photo of the Day: Mangels Pony Cart Ride

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Astroland 2008

Taking Souvenir Photos at Astroland on Opening Day of the Season. March 16, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island’s traditional Opening Day is Palm Sunday, which also happens to be April 1st this year. We’re celebrating the occasion with a look back at favorite photos of Opening Day beginning with 2008. In that year, Palm Sunday fell early–on March 28th–and State Senator Diane Savino gamely joined the hula-hooping party on West 10th Street.

Diane Savino

Senator Diane Savino hula hoops at Astroland's opening day celebration. March 16, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Opening Day is a time for Coney Island aficionados and friends to take the first souvenir pictures of the season, go for a first spin on Coney’s rides and win the first prize of the year. It’s a day for elected officials who represent the neighborhood to preside over the ceremonial openings of the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel and for local boosters to show their pride.

Boy wins his first prize of the 2009 season at Water Race Game on Jones Walk

Boy wins his first prize of the 2009 season at Water Race Game on Jones Walk. April 5, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

This Sunday’s festivities begin at 11 am with the Annual Blessing of the Rides by Pastor Debbie Santiago of Coney Island’s Salt N Sea Mission at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, tradition that began in 1983. Free entertainment by face painters, clowns, stilt walkers and DJ Joe follows the ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by park owners Dennis and Steve Vourderis. Children from the mission receive free rides, lunch and Easter baskets full of toys. The first 100 people on line for the Wonder Wheel get to ride the landmark wheel for half price.

Blessing of the Rides

Pastor Debbie Santiago, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Dennis Vourderis and Borough President Marty Markowitz at Blessing of the Rides at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. March 28, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

At 12 noon, the Cyclone Roller Coaster opens for the season with the ceremonial Egg Cream Christening of the first car on the ride’s platform. After dignitaries and guests go for the first ride, the first 100 people on line ride the Cyclone for free. The landmark coaster’s first drop was rebuilt this winter, so it will be interesting to hear what the Cyclone’s fans have to say. Following the ceremony at the Cyclone, the rides at Luna Park and Scream Zone open for the season.

Opening Day

Borough President Marty Markowitz Breaking Bottle of Egg Cream with Miss Cyclone Angie Pontani at Cyclone's Opening Day Ceremony March 28, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

While most of the Boardwalk stores, including Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter, are undergoing renovations and Zamperla’s new go karts and Sky Coaster aren’t slated to open till May, there is one new ride to try on Opening Day. The Astroland bumper cars have returned to Coney Island and their new home is Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.

Coney’s 61 rides and diverse attractions will be open on April 1st from 12 noon till around 8 pm, weather permitting. On West 12th Street under the Wonder Wheel, the Coney Island History Project’s free exhibit center opens at 12 noon. The Coney Island Polar Bears go for their weekly swim at 1 pm and Coney Island USA’s annual Noisefest gets underway at 2 pm.

Thanks as always to ATZ friend and contributing photographer Bruce Handy for his photos of Coney Island’s Opening Day.

Zoltar

Zoltar Speaks joins Grandma's Predictions Under the Wonder Wheel on Opening Day 2011. March 28, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

April 12, 2014: April 13: Freebies Abound on 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 11, 2012: Photo Album: Under Construction in Coney Island 2012

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