Posts Tagged ‘Deno's Wonder Wheel Park’

Coney Island’s Opening Day ceremonies have been rescheduled for Saturday, March 26th, due to snow forecast for Palm Sunday. The parks will also be open March 25th, Good Friday, and March 27th, Easter Sunday.

In prep for Coney Island’s opening day on March 20th, the Wonder Wheel’s 24 cars were put back on the landmark ride on Friday. As we’ve noted in past years, the annual ritual is regarded as the first sign of spring in Coney Island. Being there to see the cars go up, the swinging blue and red ones first and then the stationary white, is like seeing crocuses bloom before your eyes.

This year, videographer Jim McDonnell recorded a wonderful up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the Vourderis family and their longtime crew returning the freshly painted and refurbished cars to the Wheel after the ride’s winter rest. At the 46 second mark, look for Wonder dog Ringo, park co-owner Steve Vourderis’s pet, cutely supervising. Ringo enjoys riding the Wheel and is no doubt anticipating his first ride of the season. So are we!

Deno’s Wonder Wheel and the rest of Coney Island’s rides will go for their first spin of the 2016 season on Palm Sunday, which also happens to be the first day of spring this year, and is just eight days away. The 31st annual Blessing of the Rides at Wonder Wheel Park starts at 11:00am. After the ceremony, there will be free rides for 300 children from the local Salt and Sea Mission, and free rides on Deno’s Wonder Wheel for the first 96 people on line in celebration of the 1920 Wheel’s 96th year.

Deno's Wonder Wheel

Wonder Wheel dog Ringo supervising the return of the cars to the Wheel. March 11, 2016. Photo © Jim McDonnell

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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.”

Related posts on ATZ...

August 22, 2013: In Memoriam: Carousel & Amusement Park Operator Jimmy McCullough
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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Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton

Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton. September 7, 2015.

Happy Halloween! Thanks to the extended season and the spooky holiday falling on a Saturday, which hasn’t happened in several years, Spook-A-Rama is open on Halloween Weekend for the first time ever. Coney Island’s legendary 60-year-old dark ride adjacent to Deno’s Wonder Wheel opens at 12 noon.

November 1st is the last day of the season for Coney Island’s two amusement parks – Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park – which are scheduled to reopen on Coney’s traditional opening day, Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016. This weekend is your last chance to go for a first date or get engaged on the Wonder Wheel and brave the Cyclone roller coaster in 2015.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 23, 2013: Coney’s Parachute Jump & Wonder Wheel Lit for Christmas

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

March 29, 2013: Spook-A-Rama Revival: Vintage Cyclops Meets New Dragon

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

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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

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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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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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Easter Bunny Best on the Boardwalk. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Easter Sunday Best at Paul's Daughter on the Boardwalk. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Happy Easter and Happy Passover from Coney Island! While Palm Sunday is Coney Island’s season opener, it’s Easter that draws the crowds. If the weather is favorable, as we expect this Sunday–“Mostly sunny and breezy. Highs in the upper 50s,” according to the National Weather Service–the day can be as busy for the amusement ride and game operators as the Fourth of July.

In 2010, Easter was on April 4th and temps were in the 70s when we snapped these photos of New Yorkers in their Sunday best. The Boardwalk was a People’s Parade on Easter Sunday. Lines were long at ticket booths and rides were jam packed from noon till nearly midnight!

Easter Sunday, Coney Island

Easter Toddler at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

While the kids are off from New York City schools through April 12, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park are open daily for Spring Break, weather permitting. The parks open at 12 noon. Coney Island’s roller coasters–the Cyclone and the Thunderbolt– will be up and running this weekend. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park has four new family rides, including a Mangels’ Whip inspired Speedway and the retro Scrambler.

Keep an eye out for “Easter fresh” outfits, including bunny headgear!

Easter Brunch at Paul's Daughter on the Boardwalk. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Easter Brunch at Paul's Daughter on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

East in Coney Island

Easter at Steve’s Grill House on the Boardwalk. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Bunny Baby in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Bunny Baby in Coney Island. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Steeplechase Pier on Easter Sunday

Steeplechase Pier on Easter Sunday. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Steeplechase Pier on Easter Sunday

Steeplechase Pier on Easter Sunday. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

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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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