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Posts Tagged ‘carnival’

Bumble Bee Ride

Bumble Bees and Herschell Carousel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Coney Island, September 3, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Remember Coney Island’s Bumble Bees? The popular kiddie ride in McCullough’s Kiddie Park left its spot on the Bowery when the family closed their park in 2012 after being unable to extend the lease. In April, the Bees will once again be awhirl after finding a wonderful new home in Canada.

ATZ learned the good news from the ride’s new owner, Jim Mills, who operates Select Shows, a traveling carnival based in Manitoba. “This past fall I purchased the Bumble Bee ride from McCullough’s Park in Coney Island,” Mills told ATZ. “During the past winter it has been totally rebuilt and going to hit the road this spring on my show.”

Coney Island Bumblebee

Coney Island Bumblebee under Restoration. Photo © Select Shows, Manitoba

Mills, whose family-run carnival operates from mid-April through the end of September in Manitoba and Ontario, sent us photos of the rehab. “There is a picture of the beginning of the make over and the rest are showing the painting of the last two as well as the new sweeps, all new hydraulics, electrical and complete body work, which alone for the Bees is about 400 man hours. We have put approximately $30,000 into this project so far,” says Mills, who promises to send more photos once the redo is completed and the ride is set up. He has put up a page on the show’s website about the history of the ride, which survived Hurricane Sandy. SO happy to see the Bees lovingly restored and ready to begin their new life on the road!

Coney Island Bumblebee under Restoration

Coney Island Bumblebee under Restoration. Photo © Select Shows, Manitoba, Canada

The McCullough family operated amusements in Coney Island for four generations and their kiddie park had been on 12th Street and the Bowery since the 1960s. The often-photographed Bumble Bee ride was emblematic of Coney Island and frequently photographed with the Wonder Wheel or Parachute Jump in the background. When Astroland closed in 2008, some photographers’ captions said it was the end of the Bees because they did not realize the ride was part of a different park.

On Flickr we posted: Please note the Bumblebee ride on the Bowery and the kiddie rides surrounding it are NOT part of Astroland. McCullough’s Kiddie Park has 12 kiddie rides and is open for the 2009 season. The McCullough family is related to the Tilyous and have owned and operated rides in Coney Island for many years and we hope many years to come!

Coney Island Bumblebee

Coney Island Bumblebee under Restoration. Photo © Select Shows, Manitoba, Canada

Fun Facts about the Bumble Bees:

The ride’s trademark name Bumble Bee Bop was first used in 2001. This aerial kiddie carousel was designed and manufactured by Sellner, the inventor of the Tilt-A-Whirl.

McCullough’s Bumble Bee ride inspired Galloping Boy Designs T-shirt of an adventurous tabby seeing the sights of Coney Island from the back of a bumble bee. The Bees can also be glimpsed in numerous films and music videos shot in Coney.

Artist Chris DAZE Ellis, who painted a mural adjacent to McCullough’s Kiddie Park for the Dreamland Artist Club in 2004, pays tribute to the Bumble Bees in his painting Kiddyland Spirits. The 1995 painting is among his works currently on view in the touring exhibit Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland at the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Chris DAZE Ellis

Kiddyland Spirits, 1995, oil on canvas. Painting copyright Chris DAZE Ellis

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Reithoffer Shows

Art for Reithoffer Shows Indy 500 ‘Flitzer’ Coaster at Coney Island, May 26, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Reithoffer Shows, one of America’s oldest carnivals, is heading to Brooklyn after 11 days at the Staten Island Mall with more than 25 rides. The carnival’s Blue Unit is partnering with Aviator Sports at Floyd Bennett Field for the fifth year of the Kings County Fair, which runs from May 15 through 26. The family-run carnival billed as “The Aristocrat of Show Business” began in 1896 with a steam-driven carousel and is now operated by the 4th and 5th generations.

Meanwhile, over the weekend in Coney Island, the “Rumor Mill” was saying that Reithoffer is bringing rides to Thor Equities long-vacant lots on Stillwell from May 15-26 with the option of staying longer if business was good. The source of this “news” was said to be “very reliable.” The rumor began back in March (“Will Rides Return to Thor Equities Vacant Lots in Coney Island?” ATZ), though no specific carnival was mentioned at the time.

We’re still skeptical because no one we talked with from Reithoffer’s management knows anything about rides going to Coney Island and it’s the same date as the Kings County Fair. Blue Unit Manager Gary Alberry did allow that since Reithoffer has more than 115 rides, it’s possible some are being sent to Coney, though he’s not aware of it. The Blue Unit also has rides at the Northeast Fair in Pennsylvania and a Virginia K-Mart, while the Orange Unit is playing spots in New Jersey and Maryland, according to Reithoffer’s route list. With Memorial Day Weekend less than two weeks away, if rides are indeed coming to Coney they should be arriving any day.

On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Thor CEO Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled his vacant lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows for a limited two-week run and Geren Rides till Labor Day. Contrary to the PR campaign, the lots were vacant again by July, when Geren left for his fairs. Will this be Thor’s Summer of Hope, Part 2?

funhouse showfront

Art for Crusty Crab funhouse front, Reithoffer Shows in Coney Island. May 26, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

UPDATE May 20, 2014

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Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th where amusements once thrived. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor Equities’ huge vacant lots on Stillwell Avenue in the heart of Coney Island were cleaned up over the weekend and two different sources say rides are coming. The news is unconfirmed and it’s hard not to be skeptical considering the history of what’s been here since Joe Sitt acquired the land and began evicting longtime ride and park operators in 2006. But everybody — or almost everybody– wants to see the property activated instead of sadly sitting vacant (and yes, that is a pun). If temporary rides are in the stars for Thor’s Coney Island this season, let’s hope it works out this time. Despite various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals, the lots remained vacant in 2010 and again last year, when a stop-work order was issued on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Ring of Fire

Geren Rides’ Ring of Fire on Stillwell Ave in Coney Island, July 5, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

A little history in case you weren’t around to experience the drama: In October 2006, eight amusement businesses, including Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City and Eddie Miranda’s Zipper, which inspired the film Zipper, received notice from new property owner Thor Equities to be out by the end of the year. On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled the reviled empty lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows and Geren Rides for a limited run. Hope died when the rides left in mid-July and were replaced by a couple of inflatable bounces.

inflatable bouncer

After the carnival left: Batman and Cinderella’s Castle inflatable bounces on Thor’s vacant lot in Coney Island. August 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

Skeptics said the amusements were a ruse in the lead-up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. At the time, Sitt and the City were at a standoff in negotiations over a compromise plan that would reduce the acreage of the amusement zone and allow high-rise hotels on the south side of Surf Avenue.

Cobra Ride

The Cobra was among the flat rides at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park on Stillwell Avenue. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Failed flea markets made a mockery of the rezoning in 2009 and 2011. “Festival by the Sea” and the “BK Festival” were granted City permits as a “temporary fair” because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. Clever, huh? In 2012, rides, games and sideshows returned to Thor’s Stillwell lots for the first time since 2008. As a critic of flea markets on land where the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) had once thrilled, we were happy to see the BK Festival and Thor Equities take this new direction.

Among the rides were the Cobra, which amusement park blogger The DOD3 describes as White Trash Carny Ride #7. “Every Cobra I’ve been on looks like it’s stuck in a 70s timewarp but they all give wonderfully intense rides,” he writes. Other WTCRs on his list are the Skydiver (#1), the Zipper (#3) and the Trabant (#9), all of which Coney used to have. A Trabant was one of the rides at Dreamland, a temporary park on the former Astroland site in 2009.

BK Festival: Giant Slide on Stillwell Avenue West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

There were problems at the Stillwell Avenue park from the get-go. Originally set to open on Memorial Day Weekend 2012, the park was not able to open till four weeks later. A Giant Slide and Zipline never opened at all. Filing of paperwork with City agencies and bureaucratic red tape was blamed for the delay. City permitting issues relating to fencing closed the park intermittently and irregular hours had some visitors asking if and when it was open. The Mega Whirl, a prototype ride that combined the thrill of the Whip and the Tilt-A-Whirl debuted here and its abandoned platform remains on the lot, a symbol of financial ruin and broken dreams.

MegaWhirl Ride in Coney Island

MegaWhirl Ride and Zipline on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. November 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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