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March 9: Coney Island USA Spring Gala at Webster Hall. Banner by Marie Roberts. Photo © Norman Blake

March 8: The Coney Island Dancers First Dance Party of the Season
The Coney Island Dancers, whose free parties on the Boardwalk are the stuff of summer, are getting a head start on the season. On Friday, March 8th, Rican Vargas AKA The Commander-in-Chief is hosting Latin House Night with DJ Frankie Paradise from 9 pm till 4 am. The venue is Coney Island Bar and Grill on the north side of Surf Avenue, across the street from Coney Island USA. $5 cover until 11pm, $8 after. Full kitchen menu available.

March 9: Tracing the Story of the Dreamland Bell’s Maker
dreamland bellWhen the bell from Coney Island’s Iron Pier was hauled up from the ocean nearly a century after it was lost during the 1911 Dreamland Fire, there was jubilation in Coney. Information about the bell’s maker has come to light thanks to the research of Brooklyn architect David Grider. On Saturday, he’s giving a talk at Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel on the “USS Monitor to the Dreamland Bell: Unscrambling the Story of James Gregory.” The 1 pm event is free but reservations are required. A trolley tour of related Green-Wood sites, including Gregory’s grave, is available for $15.

March 9: Coney Island USA Spring Gala & The Burlesque Manifesto
When Coney Island opens for the season on March 24, we’ll miss Coney Island USA’s circus sideshow, burlesque shows and Freak Bar. They don’t expect to open till May, since CIUSA’s building suffered flood damage from Sandy. On Saturday, March 9th, you can help out with their renovation costs by partying from 7-11 pm with sideshow freaks and burlesque beauties at Coney Island USA’s Spring Gala at Webster Hall. One of the highlights of the evening is a staging of “The Burlesque Manifesto” starring a who’s who of Coney luminaries and based on an article written by CIUSA founder Dick Zigun. Ticket prices range from $60 to $250 and may be purchased online or at the door.

March 10: Around the World with Tom Thumb
Tom ThumbTom Thumb biographer and University of Bridgeport professor Eric D. Lehman will present an illustrated lecture at the Barnum Museum on March 10. Charles S. Stratton, AKA General Tom Thumb, became an international celebrity when P.T. Barnum took him on a European tour, which is the subject of Sunday’s talk. Lehman is the author of Becoming Tom Thumb due out in November from Wesleyan University Press. The museum will have on display an exhibition of artifacts owned by Tom Thumb and his wife Lavinia Warren. Admission to the 2 pm event is $5.
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March 17: Carol Lipnik and Spookarama at Joe’s Pub
carollipnik_ 5621071-thumbConey Island native Carol Lipnik, who calls her band Spookarama after the dark ride at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, will appear in concert at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. Her multi-octave voice and Dred Scott’s wurlitzer do indeed make you feel as if you’ve stepped inside an old-timey spook house or are careening down the drop of a roller coaster. Check out ATZ’s Q & A with Carol and her song “List Of Attractions (Of Coney Island)” here. The St Patrick’s Day show is at 7 pm. Tickets are $15.

March 23: Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier
Nathan’s kicks off Coney Island’s 2013 Season with the first-ever qualifier for the 4th of July hot dog eating contest to be held in Coney Island. The male and female winners of the March 23rd Coney qualifier will win a spot in “The Big Dance” on July Fourth. The event is set for 1 pm at Nathan’s Boardwalk restaurant, which reopens on March 18 to serve the first Nathan’s hot dogs and buns since Sandy devastated the area. Renovations are underway at the Surf Avenue location, which is expected to reopen by Memorial Day Weekend. For info on registering for a hot dog eating qualifier, visit Major League Eating.

March 24: Coney Island’s Opening Day of the 2013 Season
Coney IslandConey Island’s traditional Palm Sunday Opener comes early this year – March 24th! The rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Luna Park and Scream Zone, 12th Street Amusements and the Eldorado will go for their first spin of 2013. The Cyclone opens at 12 noon with the first 100 fans on line riding for free. At Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, the annual Blessing of the Rides ceremony starts at 11 am on the Boardwalk. This year, to celebrate Coney’s comeback from Sandy, rides on the landmark Wonder Wheel are free for everyone on Opening Day. The Coney Island History Project’s free exhibit center will be open, along with its neighbors “Coney Island Always,” a window showcasing a miniature animated amusement park, and “Miss Coney Island” the dancing doll. It’s also the first official weekend of the season for the Boardwalk shops and eateries and the games on the Bowery.

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