Spookarama Cyclops

The 1950's Cyclops from Spook-A-Rama at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park is on exhibit at the Coney Island History Project through September 7, when the sculpture will be shipped to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project cordially invite you to a Bon Voyage Party for the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops on Sunday, September 7, from 12pm-6pm. The 1950s folk art icon is leaving Coney Island for the first time in his life to be part of Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, a traveling exhibit organized by Robin Jaffee Frank, chief curator and Krieble Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, which opens in January. Our beloved "Cy" will tour museums across the country through 2016 in the company of artwork by some of America's most distinguished artists.

"The sculpture is unique, one-of-a-kind, a throwback to the hand-made craftsmanship and creativity that made Coney the center of the amusement universe," said Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who has been a consultant for the exhibit since 2010 and wrote an essay for the forthcoming catalogue.

Your last chance to take a free souvenir photo with the Cyclops at the Coney Island History Project, where "Cy" has posed with thousands of visitors over the past two years, will be the Bon Voyage Party on September 7 since the sculpture will be shipped later that week. The History Project will be open for this special event. The Cyclops is also on view during the History Project's regular season --Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through Labor Day, September 1, from 12 pm-6pm. Admission is free of charge.

Spookarama

Spook-A-Rama, the classic dark ride at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Photo courtesy of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, home to Spook-A-Rama, Coney Island's oldest operating dark ride, will serve ghoulade and eyeball cookies to the first 500 guests on September 7. Spook-A-Rama was carefully refurbished in 2012 after serious damage from flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Along with the restored Pretzel cars and tracks, the ride has exciting new props. Some of the old props were rescued and preserved and will be on public display on September 7 to wish their friend the Cyclops a bon voyage. Spook-A-Rama is one of 21 rides in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, which is open daily through Labor Day, then weekends and holidays through October 26.

CONTEST

Planning to come to the Cyclops' goodbye party? Enter a contest to win the chance to go on a rare behind-the-scenes tour of Spook-A-Rama on September 7 at 11 am, before the ride opens, led by Wonder Wheel Park's D.J. Vourderis and the Coney Island History Project's Charles Denson. To enter the contest, tell us why you love Spook-A-Rama and want to join the tour. Submissions may be emailed to wonderwheelcat[AT]gmail[DOT]com or posted on Deno's Wonder Wheel Park's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DenosWonderWheelPark). Only 10 winners will be selected. Each winner may bring one guest. Winners will be notified in advance of the tour.

Spookarama

DJ Vourderis, whose family owns and operates Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, will lead a behind-the-scenes tour of Spook-A-Rama with the Coney Island History Project's Charles Denson. Coney Island's oldest operating dark ride was built in the 1950s and refurbished after Hurricane Sandy

ABOUT THE CYCLOPS In September 2011, Spook-A-Rama's Cyclops, a Coney Island legend that hadn't been seen in decades, came out of retirement to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Coney Island History Project. Lula Vourderis accepted the plaque on behalf of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Vourderis Family.

In his speech honoring the Cyclops, Charles Denson said: "Last year I was hired as a consultant for an upcoming university art exhibition about Coney Island. While researching artwork for the exhibit we realized that the Cyclops head was an iconic and recurring image in dozens of modern artworks. The curator and I wondered if it still existed and if it could be included in the exhibition. I asked Steve Vourderis if the Cyclops had survived. He had a surprise for me. It was in storage right behind the History Project.

"After being excavated and stabilized it became the centerpiece of our induction ceremony. The Cyclops represents the creativity of Coney Island's artisans and visionaries. In the past, anyone with a vision...

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(Posted on Aug 22, 2014)
History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park Coney Island History Project On History Day, visitors may take a peek inside the Astroland Rocket, previously sealed shut for 45 years!

Enjoy live music, entertainment and history at the 4th Annual History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, home of the landmark 1920 Wonder Wheel, and at the Coney Island History Project. The free event will be held from 1-6pm on Saturday, August 9. The rain date is August 10.

The theme of this year's festivities is the return of the Astroland Rocket, one of the first of the "imaginary" space voyage simulators constructed during the Space Race. Astroland Park's 1962 Rocket was brought back to Coney Island in June 2014 by the History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, where its new home is next to the Wonder Wheel. The Rocket will be restored as a multimedia exhibit covering the history of flight-themed attractions in Coney Island.

History Day will blast off with a dedication ceremony at the Rocket at 2pm, Visitors are invited to take a peek inside the space-age icon, previously sealed shut for 45 years! Tang & MoonPies will be served to the first 500 guests. DJ George Marchelos and The Rockinghams will play retro '60s music and space-themed songs from 11am-6pm.

Premiere screenings of Charles Denson's new film "The Rocket Has Landed" will be held at the Coney Island History Project from 1-6pm. The film tells the story of the Astroland Rocket and its journey back to Coney Island after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy while in storage on Staten Island. The rocket was installed as the first space-themed ride at Astroland Park in 1962 before being moved to a rooftop location on the Boardwalk that made it a landmark for millions of Coney Island visitors over a period of several decades. Four years after it was donated to the City, the Coney Island History Project spearheaded a successful effort to return the rocket to Coney Island where it is now on display at Wonder Wheel Park.

Bill Sharkey

Bill Sharkey playing his Jaeger & Brommer street organ at Deno's Wonder Wheel Pavilion on the Boardwalk

Returning for an encore performance on History Day are organ grinders from the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA) and the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) playing both antique and home-built hand-cranked musical organs. From 1pm-6pm, visitors will have the chance to crank some of the organs and experience a thrill from days gone by.

Queens residents Vincent and Maryam Morgan will play their Castlewood 20-note crank organ. The Morgans are president and treasurer of the Lady Liberty Chapter of AMICA, whose members enjoy musical instruments such as player pianos, orchestrions, nickelodeons, band organs and music boxes. The membership is from New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and southern Connecticut.

Ian Fraser, 13, of Staten Island, is the youngest member of AMICA and COAA. His 1881 Celestina Organette was made by the Mechanical Orguinette Company of New York at their factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This type of organ was one of the best selling models of its day and was the equivalent to today's iPod. It allowed the most popular music of the time to be played again and again. It was a first in the history of music.

Ian Fraser History Day Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Ian Fraser, 13, of Staten Island, playing his 1881 Celestina Organette manufactured in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Bill and Rita Sharkey of Long Island will play a street organ made in Germany by Jaeger & Brommer, whose craftsmanship is based on a 200-year tradition of organ building in Waldkirch. It plays a 20-note paper roll by turning the hand crank located on the side of the organ.

Will and Joanna Schultz are traveling from Pennsylvania with their 26-note Universal John Smith crank organ. Will worked 2-1/2 years to build it entirely from scratch using wood from a scrap pile and designed his own cabinet.

Also from Pennsylvania is Mark Pall, whose interest in building hand-cranked organs grew out of his background as a church organist. He will play a John Smith organ that he built and redesigned himself.

The rally is curated by band organ restorer and magician Bob Yorburg, who is Vice President of COAA. He will perform his interactive show "Professor Phineas Feelgood's World of Magic" at 4pm in Dreamland Plaza adjacent to the Coney Island History Project.

The organ rally and magic show are free to the public and will be held at the Coney Island History Project, Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza on 12th Street and in Deno's...

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(Posted on Jul 30, 2014)
Fourth Annual History Day Fourth Annual History Day
(Posted on Jul 29, 2014)
History Day

Save the Date! Saturday, August 9th, 2014, from 1pm - 6pm, is the 4th Annual History Day Celebration at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project.

History Day festivities include free live entertainment, music and history. This year, we're also planning a special event to celebrate the return of the Astroland Rocket, the 1960s space-age icon which came home to Coney Island in June and has landed next to the Wonder Wheel in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Stay tuned for details of this exciting event to be announced soon!

Returning for an encore performance on History Day are organ grinders from the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA) and the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) playing hand-cranked musical organs from around the world. Throughout the day, visitors will have the chance to crank some of the organs and experience a thrill from days gone by. The rally is curated by band organ restorer and magician Bob Yorburg, who will perform his interactive show "Professor Phineas Feelgood's World of Magic."

The organ rally, magic show and other performances TBA are free to the public and will be held at the Coney Island History Project, Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza on 12th Street and in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.

On History Day, the Coney Island History Project will feature special exhibits as well as historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films from our archive. Among the artifacts on view are an original Steeplechase horse from the ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name, the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops from Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, hand-painted figures from Astroland's Musik Express, a Mangels Fairy Whip Car made in Coney Island in the early 1900s, and vintage signs and game pieces. Admission is free of charge.

(Posted on Jul 14, 2014)
Woody Guthrie's Birthday Celebrated in Coney Island

Happy 102nd Birthday, Woody Guthrie! This weekend, in honor of the folk hero's July 14th birthday, the Coney Island History Project will screen "Woody Guthrie's 100th Birthday, Celebrated at Coney Island," a short film by Charles Denson. The film may be viewed on Saturday and Sunday, July 12th and 13th, from 12pm -6pm, at the History Project's exhibit center. Admission is free of charge.

Charles Denson's film was made on July 14, 2012, when the activist songwriter's daughter Nora Guthrie and family members including grandchildren, along with musicians Billy Bragg and Steve Earle and actor Tim Robbins (seen in above photo) made a pilgrimage to Coney Island, where Guthrie lived on Mermaid Avenue for a decade.

The film will be screened next year at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College when the Klezmatics' "Woody Guthrie's Wonder Wheel Tour" performs there on March 8, 2015. This week, the arts center is commemorating Guthrie's birthday with a special discount offer for the Klezmatics' show, which features songs written during Guthrie's Coney Island years such as "Mermaid's Avenue." Use code WOODY20 and save $10 per ticket. The offer expires on Woody's birthday.

In 2008, Woody Guthrie was honored at the Coney Island Hall of Fame ceremony at the Coney Island History Project along with an exhibit "Woody Guthrie's Coney Island Years." History Project director Charles Denson also put up the commemorative plaque, seen in the photo above, at 3520 Mermaid Avenue, where the Guthries lived from 1943 to 1952. The building was demolished in 1972. When Guthrie died in 1967, his ashes were spread in the ocean one block from here, at the foot of West 36th Street.

(Posted on Jul 11, 2014)
City of Water Day

Join Partnerships for Parks, City Parks Foundation and the Coney Island History Project on Saturday, July 12, for City of Water Day in Kaiser Park!

11am - 11:45am: Explore the history of Coney Island Creek with historian Charles Denson, who has documented the Creek for over 40 years and is working on a book and film about the waterway. In 2012, the Coney Island History Project received a grant from Partnerships for Parks to create CreekWalk, a self-guided walking tour brochure and a series of informational plaques installed on the creek side of Kaiser Park.

11:30am - 1pm: Participate in T'ai Chi and other fitness activities

11:30am - 2pm: Talk about transportation. How do you get to the waterfront?

11:30am - 2pm: Meet some of the groups working in Kaiser Park. Design your ideal park and plan for the future of your neighborhood

11:30am - 2pm: Dig in to a vertical garden with Coney Island Beautification Project

Location: Kaiser Park entrance on Neptune Avenue and 31st Street

A citywide project of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the City of Water Day Festival is a free day-long celebration of the world-class potential of the water that surrounds us and brings us together.

(Posted on Jul 11, 2014)