Posts Tagged ‘rides’

Before television, newsreels like this one filmed in Coney Island circa 1945 were shown in movie theaters. The film starts with the Wonder Wheel (described by the narrator as “a mass of iron lace”) and ends with the Parachute Jump (“the highest in the whole United States”) and the Cyclone (“mountain climbing on wheels”). Among the long-vanished rides that appear are the Virginia Reel, Looper, Whip, Octopus, Caterpillar, Rocket Ships, a carousel with a ring machine and the original Steeplechase horse race.


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March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

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Brooklyn Borough Prez Marty Markowitz and Borough Historian Ron Schweiger on the Cyclone’s Opening Day of the Season. After Labor Day, the Cyclone is open weekends through Sept 20. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Brooklyn Borough Prez Marty Markowitz, Borough Historian Ron Schweiger and Erik Knapp’s Tattoo on the Cyclone’s Opening Day of the Season. After Labor Day, the Cyclone is open weekends through Sept 20. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE: This is a post from September 2009! Please see report from September 13, 2013: “Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round” here.

After Labor Day, Coney Island’s beach “officially” closed for the summer, the Ringling Circus left for Europe and Thor Equities’ on-again, off-again “Dreamland Amusement Park” with its dozen rides became an empty lot again. Contrary to popular perception, the rest of Coney Island remains open. The amusement area still has over 40 operating rides including the City-owned Cyclone roller coaster, open weekends through September 20, McCullough’s Kiddie Park (12 rides), open weekends through September, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (22 rides) and Eldorado Bumper Cars open weekends through October. Weather permitting of course. Call ahead for hours.

Eldorado Auto Skooter. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Eldorado Auto Skooter. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

What’s more, Coney’s quirky performers and cultural entrepreneurs have dreamed up some unique events to lure you to our sandy shore. This weekend’s calendar includes the 1st annual Coney Island Performance Festival, the 2nd annual Beard and Moustache Competition, and a Pat Benatar Tribute at the Dreamland Roller Rink. Check the Coney Island Fun Guide for details of upcoming events such as the Coney Island Tattoo & Motorcycle Show (Sept 20), Shakespeare’s The Tempest on the Beach (Sept 26-27) and the Coney Island Film Festival (Oct 2-4). True to the spirit of the People’s Playground, the events are free or reasonably priced, so come out to “the Island” and have some post-beach season fun!

Meet me by the Jellyfish Tank in the Aquarium for Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival.
Poet and festival organizer Amanda Deutch has lined up a talented array of Brooklyn-based writers and performers for the first annual event. Africasso, Patricia Spears Jones, John Ventimiglia from The Sopranos reading Henry Miller, Eileen Myles (“the rock star of modern poetry”), former Brooklyn Poet Laureate Dennis Nurkse and Coney historian Charles Denson are among the scheduled readers. The free event begins at 6:30 pm. Prior to the performance, visitors can stop by the Coney Island History Project under the Cyclone from 2-6 pm to pick up a festival program, have a free cup of Stumptown coffee, view photos of Astroland circa 1964, and ring the century-old Dreamland Pier Bell.
Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival, New York Aquarium, 6:30 pm, FREE. Surf Ave @ West 8th Street, (718) 265-FISH.
Coney Island History Project, 2 – 6 pm, FREE. 824 Surf Ave under the Cyclone, (718) 266-0012

Halston & Donny Vomit. Photo © ci_moustache via flickr

Halston & Donny Vomit. Photo © ci_moustache via flickr

The hairiest event of the season at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow is undoubtedly the Coney Island Beard and Moustache Competition. Hosted by the sideshow’s moustachioed m.c. and performer extraordinaire Donny Vomit, the Variety and Awards show features Albert Cadabra the Great Deceiver and special guest performer Jennifer Miller the Bearded Lady. Prizes will be awarded for best natural and best styled beard or moustache, best in show, worst in show and best female fake beard or stache. The Coney Island Circus Sideshow remains open weekends through the end of September. Special events are scheduled in October.
The Second Annual Coney Island Beard and Moustache Competition, Sideshows By The Seashore Theater, 6 – 9 pm, $10. 12th Street @ Surf Ave, 718 372 5159

Shadows of the Night! Pat Benatar Roller Skating Tribute Party at Lola Staar’s Dreamland Roller Rink. $12 admission/$10 with “80s Rock n’ roll glam attire.” Skate rentals available for $5, Free skate rentals before 8:30 pm. The Dreamland Roller Rink in the terracotta palace known as the Childs Building on the Boardwalk will be open weekends through the end of September.
–Every Friday Night: Funk-Gospel-Soul Skate Party, 7 -11 pm, $10
–Weekly Family Skate on Saturdays, 2 – 6 pm, $10
–Every Sunday: Retro Disco Skate at Dreamland Roller Rink, 3- 7 pm, $10
Dreamland Roller Rink, 3053 W 21st St on the Boardwalk, 800-362-5116

Dreamland Roller Rink

Lola Staars Dreamland Roller Rink. Photo © Bruce Handy (Pablo57) via flickr

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s open year round…..Nathan’s, New York Aquarium, the Coney Island Museum (Sat-Sun), Williams Candy, Coney Island Beach Shop. Visitors may tour the area 365 days a year with the Coney Island History Project’s free audio/video tour of “The Amusement Area: Past and Present.” The tour is downloadable to iPods and other portable players and may be listened to live via iPhone. The free download and a map are available on the History Project’s website.

Cotton candy is a summer treat, but the NY Aquarium is open year round.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Cotton candy is a summer treat, but the NY Aquarium is open year round. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


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On location in Coney Island: Reverchon Himalaya recently purchased by Geren Rides from Cumberland Valley Shows.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On location in Coney Island: Reverchon Himalaya recently purchased by Geren Rides from Cumberland Valley Shows. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In anticipation of a third season on Thor Equities property in Coney Island, carnival operator Glenn Geren recently purchased a Schwarzkopf Wildcat Coaster, Reverchon Himalaya, Watkins Swinger and Tempest, and Bumper Cars from Cumberland Valley Shows through usedrides.com. For the past two summers, Geren Rides of Valdosta, Georgia, has operated 10 rides in “Dreamland,” the temporary amusement park on Thor Equities vacant lots in Coney Island.

The news that real estate speculator and Thor CEO Joe Sitt is close to selling his Coney Island property to the City doesn’t worry Geren. Does the carnival operator know something we don’t know? “I’ve just got an assurance is all I have,” says Geren, who admits he doesn’t have a contract with Thor. “I was told if we don’t set up on this side of Coney Island, we’d set up on the other side of Coney Island. I’ve been testing the waters and I’ve already made a pretty good investment for next year.”

The five rides were purchased from Cumberland Valley Shows of Lebanon, Tenn., which had the equipment in storage at their winter quarters for several years. Jeremy Floyd of CVS confirmed that the coaster purchased by Geren was a Wildcat owned by his family’s carnival. A coaster website had previously listed CVS’s portable coaster as a Pinfari Zyklon. The first steel coaster made by famed roller coaster designer Anton Schwarzkopf, Wildcat coasters can be found at Washington State’s Puyallup Fair and the Jolly Roger Amusement Park in Ocean City, Md.

Wildcat at Jolly Roger Amusement Park in Ocean City, Maryland. Photo © www.CanobieFan.com via flickr

Schwarzkopf Wildcat Coaster at Jolly Roger Amusement Park in Ocean City, Maryland. Photo © http://www.CanobieFan.com via flickr

photo via Canobie Fan, flickr

Early this season, the Coney Island Rumor Mill was sayin’ a Zyklon was coming to Dreamland. Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt promised “two dozen rides” in a statement in Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s summer newsletter and Sitt’s spokesman kept insisting the rides were on the way! It turns out Geren had expected to close on the rides before the Fourth of July, but financing was delayed. When can we expect the Wildcat in Coney Island? “I’m gonna see if I can get it here for Labor Day but if not it’ll be for sure Easter of next year,” says Geren. “Actually it would probably be better if the park were closed to set up because it takes 7 semis to haul it.”

ATZ talked with Geren after his Wisdom Himalaya packed up last week and Coney ride fans began to ask if this year would be a repeat of last. In 2008, Thor Equities much-hyped Dreamland Park on Stillwell Avenue was supposed to run through Labor Day, but Geren’s Himalaya left Coney Island in mid-July for a Tennessee fair and the rest of his rides soon followed. Thor’s so-called “Dreamland” disintegrated into empty lots while the rest of Coney Island’s amusement rides and attractions remained open through September.

This year Dreamland will remain open, Geren says. The Wisdom Himalaya left Coney Island for Tennessee’s Putnam County Fair and the Spin Out will follow, but the rest of his rides—the Ring of Fire, Scrambler, Trabant and kiddie rides will stay for the rest of the season. “I’ve got other rides coming in. Actually I’ve already got my Bumper Cars here parked behind Nathan’s and there’s two more trailer loads of Himalaya parked over there too.” The Reverchon Himalaya, which takes three trailers, is currently on site being sanded and painted in preparation for set up. If you’re planning a visit to Coney, don’t let that dissuade you because Coney Island currently has 56 rides and 30 more days of summer!

Just Arrived... Bumper Cars & Himalaya Parked Behind Nathans. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Just Arrived... Bumper Cars & Himalaya Parked Behind Nathan's. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

With only 30 days left till Labor Day, the question is will Dreamland’s replacement rides be set up and ready to open before the season is over? Geren hopes to have the rides up and running within a couple of weeks. As for whether the season will be extended through September, Geren says “I’m kind of in uncharted waters here.”

In fact, all of Coney Island is uncharted waters since the City’s Rezoning passed in the City Council. But Geren’s certainty that he’ll be back in Coney in 2010 doesn’t surprise us in the least. As a reporter for the trade publication Amusement Business, I’d interviewed Geren and found him to be a risk taker. The show owner made waves in the fair industry in 2003 when he bought 13 fair and festival contracts for $114,010 plus 15% of ride grosses at the bankruptcy proceedings of United Shows. He’s kept some of these spots, but he’s also lost some. “I’m either a gambler or a fool,” Geren says with a laugh.

The biggest gambler or fool may turn out to be the City for going ahead and passing the Coney rezoning before a deal was in place with Thor Equities. Now that Sitt’s land has been upzoned, it’s going to be vastly more expensive to purchase and the City has lost bargaining power. Is Sitt under any obligation to sell to the City? What’s stopping him from flipping it to another developer just as he did with Washington Baths and Albee Square Mall? As Joe Sitt famously said last month, “I’m the guy who controls this – it’s my sandbox.” Nice spot for a Schwarzkopf.

Coney Island 2010 Update: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

Related posts on ATZ…

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!

February 22, 2010: Coney Island’s Luna Park Launches Blog Site, Lists Job Openings

February 3, 2010: New in 2010: Coney Island Fun Phone Addition to CI Fun Guide


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