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Whale Vibrations

Whale Vibrations. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The title of Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy/pablo 57‘s knockout photo of this popular kiddie ride at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park is “Whale Vibrations.” Commenters on his flickr photostream liked the composition and the splash of color against a clear blue sky. It’s one of our favorites, too!

The ride’s official name is Willie the Whale and its manufacturer is Zamperla, whose Luna Park with 19 rides is set to open next door to Deno’s on Memorial Day Weekend. Willie the Whale is one of three Zamperla rides currently operating in Coney Island’s amusement area. Can anyone guess the names and locations of the other two? We’ll post photos of those rides as soon as we receive the correct answers.

Coney Island’s 40 rides including the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone roller coaster opened for the 2010 season on Palm Sunday. This weekend is sunny with temps in the mid-70s. Willie the Whale says come out and ride!

Related posts on ATZ…

April 30, 2010: Can You Identify This Mystery Object at Coney Island’s Luna Park?

April 28, 2010: New Coney Island Coaster Pays Homage to Luna Park’s 1906 Tickler

March 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Ride of the Season on Coney Island’s Cyclone!

March 12, 2010: Photo of the Day: Williams Candy in Coney Island

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The first snow of the season has yet to arrive in Coney Island, but the weather forecast says 70% chance of snow on Saturday night. Coney Island resident and ATZ contributing photographer Bruce Handy/pablo57 sent us this exquisite image of a snowy day on the Boardwalk in January: “One of my favorite photos from last season. Ranked number 4 in my top 100.” It’s one of our faves, too.

Coney Island, January 18, 2009: Blissful Light on Dusted Lamp Post. Photo  Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via © flickr

Coney Island, January 18, 2009: Blissful Light on Dusted Lamp Post. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Have you noticed it’s already snowing on our blog? One of the “extras” for the holiday season on WordPress.com is animated snow. Our blog host has been doing this for the past two years. Amusing the Zillion debuted in April, so this is our first virtual snow. We’re enjoying it! Apologies in advance if anyone is inconvenienced. According to the instructions for “allowing” the snow, it can slow down the load time and eat up a lot of CPU on slower computers. There’s also a link for “preventing” the snow, if you choose. The snow is expected to end on January 4.

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Related posts on ATZ...

December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

October 30, 2009: Nov 1: Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s First Swim of the Season!

June 2, 2009: Coney Island is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: Dusk on the Boardwalk

May 19, 2009: Coney Island Is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: New Boardwalk

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Floss & Apples at San Gennaro. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Floss & Apples at San Gennaro. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Last Friday marked ATZ’s first weekend away from Coney Island and first weekend off since Memorial Day! After winding up the season at the People’s Playground on September 13, we soon began to miss the noise and the crowds. We headed over to the closest carnival—the 82nd Annual Feast of San Gennaro.

Strolling along Mulberry Street from Houston to Canal, we met quite a few Coney Islanders who’d brought their games, sideshows and food stands to Little Italy. In fact, the stand where we finally stopped for calamari because it looked the most appetizing turned out to be owned by the proprietors of Gyro Corner on Coney Island’s Boardwalk. Different menu in Little Italy, thanks to Mama’s sauce.

Carnival Rides on Grand Street. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Carnival Rides on Grand Street. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Hit the Hammer, Ring the Bell. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Monica from Dreamland. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Lucys Fabulous Marquee. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Lucy's Fabulous Marquee. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Lucy’s Palace is famous for their sausage sandwiches, but I was struck by the fabulous hand-painted marquee on their vintage trailer. A lot on Mulberry was filled with game concessionaires from Surf Ave and Dreamland and a trio of single-o’s direct from Coney Island. Kima “The Elephant Woman” made her sideshow debut this summer in Coney at John Strong’s Strangest Show on Earth. A ten-in-one sideshow with some former Coney freaks including Eak the Geek was there early in the week. You just never know who or what will turn up at this 10 day extravaganza in the narrow streets of Little Italy. This is the place where Coney Island’s world famous Shoot the Freak got its start!

Direct from Coney Island! Stephen was the talker at the Elephant Woman's single-o.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Direct from Coney Island! Stephen was the talker at one of the single-o's. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Toy Store Amusements Festival Wheel at San Gennaro. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Toy Store Amusements Festival Wheel at San Gennaro. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Toy Store Amusements’ Festival Wheel and three kiddie rides nudged up against the apartment buildings on Grand Street. In the increasingly gentrified streets of New York City, amusement rides at street fairs are becoming a rare sight. As far as carnival games, water race fun and one ball in wins were it.. The iPod Touch was the most hyped prize. The complete Photo Album: Coney Islanders and Carnies at San Gennaro can be viewed on flickr.

Lights at Figli di San Gennaro. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Lights at Figli di San Gennaro. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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The Original Astroland Shrine, December 26, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy (Pablo57) via flickr

The Original Astroland Shrine, December 26, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy (Pablo57) via flickr


Photographer and Coney Island resident Bruce Handy aka pablo57 has created a set of images on flickr to memorialize the first anniversary of the closing of Astroland. Titled “Astroland Shrine,” the photos and videos have an elegiac beauty and are certain to break your heart all over again. Seeing the removal of the demon from Dante’s Inferno and listening to the wail of the Astro Tower amid the teardown enveloped me in sadness. From Bruce’s intro:

Once upon a time, in the southern part of Brooklyn, in the land of rabbits, named Coney Island, there stood a timeless amusement park named Astroland. Astroland went dark on September 7, 2008 and this is the tale of the boardwalk shrine sprung from our sorrow and grief.

The original shrine was created on December 26, 2008. Four items, a bouquet of flowers, the shrine iconic collage, a hand written note saying to add more items, and a large ink drawing of a ballerina holding an umbrella.

The photo is taken from the point of view of mermaids looking at the shrine from the slats in the boardwalk.

The images in Bruce’s flickr set date from the day after Christmas in 2008, when the Astroland Shrine was created, to March 2009. “I just feel like it’s the right time to post the photos, all in one spot. It’s the gates, again locked,” Bruce says, referring to the locked gates of Dreamland Park. Following a dispute with Dreamland’s manager, property owner Thor Equities abruptly shut down the temporary amusement area on the former Astroland site. “I guess that has brought this on and the anniversary of Astroland going dark coming up. It is very emotional, I don’t know why I’m torturing myself doing it. I will be finished on Sept 7th.”

The Associated Press released a list of highlights in history for Sept 7 that includes “Astroland, New York City’s world famous amusement park at Coney Island, closed after 46 years.” Do you have any special plans to commemorate the anniversary? “Bring MORE flowers. People are afraid to destroy flowers,” says Bruce. ATZ plans to bring a bouquet to the Coney Island History Project’s Astroland Archives Photography Exhibit

The New York Times article from September 8, 2008, “Astroland Closes, This Time, It Appears, for Good,” is worth rereading for the graf about Thor Equities:

Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Thor Equities, said in a statement that the developer had been in touch with “numerous amusement operators” to discuss setting up “permanent year-round development.” The city and Joseph J. Sitt, the chairman of Thor Equities, which is now the largest landowner in the area, have yet to reach an agreement on how to redevelop Coney Island, though locals worry that the neighborhood will become awash in generic chain stores, condominiums and hotels.

One year later, Sitt has shut down the handful of mom-and-pop amusement operators brought to “Dreamland Park” this season to replace the evicted Astroland. Although the real estate speculator promised “more than 25 fun-filled rides” back in April to match Astroland’s ride count, only about a dozen rides came to Thor Equities’ Dreamland. The Coney rezoning passed in City Council at the end of the July, yet a deal to acquire Sitt’s property, including the former Astroland site, has yet to be announced. “Fundamentally, the deal with him is done,” Mayor Bloomberg recently told the Brooklyn Paper.

ATZ will be in Coney Island on Labor Day, September 7, to enjoy everything Coney Island has to offer in 2009: the 43 rides, the beach, the bars and the world-class people watching on the Boardwalk.

Full disclosure: I’m the Astro fan who created the Astroland collage which was stolen from the park’s gate. As I scrawled in the note begging for the icon’s return, which appears in one of Bruce’s photos: “Please put it back! It took me several hours to make it. I am not an artist, just made it to memorialize Astroland!” Put back Astroland, too! The park’s rides remain in storage.

This

This anonymous note disappeared within a day: Astroland R.I.P -- I Will Miss You 4-Ever. Photo © Bruce Handy (Pablo57) via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 30, 2009: Looking Back & Forward: Astroland Shrine on New Year’s Day 2009

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

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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Parking permits from the last years of the Westchester County Fair. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Parking permits from the last years of the Westchester County Fair. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The ride trailers parked behind Nathan’s in Coney Island came out of storage and still have the 1996-2002 parking permits for the Westchester County Fair. It’s a sad reminder of a fair that was cancelled in 2003 due to the construction of video lottery terminals at the Yonkers Raceway. Today the Raceway’s Empire Casino has 5,300 video slot machines which operate year round. The fading parking permits made me feel nostalgic for the county fair that never came back. I’m not the only one. The fair has a Facebook fan page with 3,712 fans and a recent discussion thread “who wants the fair back?”

Conklin Shows played the Westchester County Fair for as far back as I can remember. It was one of Amusement Business’s top 50 fairs. An AB article about the fair’s cancellation noted Conklin “posted a record $1.5 million gross for the 2002 fair, which came in at No. 38, up four spots, in AB’s 2002 list of top fairs.” Yet I could find only a few ride photos on flickr, here and here. Perhaps because the demise of the fair predates the rise of flickr! Does anyone have any memories or photos of the fair they’d like to share?

The president of Yonkers Raceway, who happens to be the same person who brought in the video gambling, is credited with starting the Westchester County Fair & Exposition in 1981. It was billed as “the first complete county fair in the New York metropolitan area in more than 30 years.”

George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

According to the Yonkers Historical Society, an earlier incarnation of the Westchester County Fair existed in 1888 on 50 acres at Tarrytown Road and Hillside Avenue…

“Here was a rack track—one of the best half–mile tracks in the country—bordered by a grandstand holding 3,000. Besides displays of cattle, pigs, needlework, fruits and vegetables, great tents held cowboy shows, bicycle races and baby shops; balloon ascensions were among the special events. The fair was climaxed by the Westchester County Ball, held at the Verein hall at Chicken Island. Six special trains brought the merry–makers to Yonkers.”

No mention of amusement rides, but I recall some wonderful old photos of a Bicycle Merry-Go-Round, sideshows and games in the Library of Congress Photo Archive.

Bicycle merry go round at Westchester County Fair. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Bicycle merry go round at Westchester County Fair. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Westchester County Fair, Wild Rose and Rattlesnake Joe sideshow. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Westchester County Fair, Wild Rose and Rattlesnake Joe sideshow. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

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Related posts on ATZ…

June 5, 2013: Up for Auction: Conklin Shows Banner by Fred Johnson

November 5, 2009: Museum Piece or Obsolete? Old Carnival Games, Stick Joints on eBay

September 2, 2009: The Sad Anniversary of Coney Island’s Astroland Going Dark

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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New Boardwalk. Photo by Pablo57 via flickr group Coney Island Is Alive and Kicking and Welcomes Visitors in 2009!

New Boardwalk. Photo by Pablo57 via flickr group Coney Island Is Alive and Kicking and Welcomes Visitors in 2009!

photo via pablo57, flickr

ATZ’s Photo of the Day is from the Coney Island History Project’s flickr group pool Coney Island Is Alive and Kicking and Welcomes Visitors in 2009! Launched in January, the group’s purpose is “to showcase the best of the best images of attractions that will *definitely* be here to welcome visitors in 2009.” The group was started by the Coney Island History Project, a not-for-profit organization that aims to increase awareness of Coney Island’s legendary and colorful past and to encourage appreciation of the Coney Island neighborhood of today.

Today’s photo shows the new section of the Boardwalk in front of Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s. The photographer “Pablo57” is a Coney Island resident who describes himself as a street photographer in the footsteps of Garry Winogrand. He’s an alum of Kevin Downs Summer Photography Workshop at Coney Island USA and plans to take the workshop again this season.

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