Coney Island Blog - Events

history day

Live Music, Entertainment and History!

Celebrate Historic Coney Island Saturday August 10th from 1pm-6pm by attending the Third Annual HISTORY DAY presented by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park & The Coney Island History Project, at the new W.12th Street Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza!

History Day festivities include live Ragtime and Dixieland music by the Banjo Rascals, old timey Organ Grinders playing hand cranked musical organs from around the world, Professor Phineas Feelgood's World of Magic, HumanToon/Street Sorcerer Kevin C Carr, and the always amazing Lady Circus! The performances are free to the public and will be held at the Coney Island History Project, the Pedestrian Plaza on 12th Street and in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park. This special event is free and open to the public

Mary Alice in 1920s Garb on Hisory Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel

Dress in 1920’s garb and get one free ride on the Wonder Wheel!

Test your Coney Island IQ at the Coney Island Trivia Contest at 2:45PM with historian and author Charles Denson. Prizes include ride passes for Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and souvenir postcards.

If you have a Coney Island story to share, come and record your memories for the History Project's Oral History Archive.

A new exhibit on "The History of Deno's Wonder Wheel: Three Generations" will open on History Day at the Coney Island History Project and continue through September. This exhibit portrays the history of Deno's Wonder Wheel and the Vourderis family who have owned and operated it for three generations. Also on History Day, there will be a presentation about mechanical street organs and the history of organ grinders by band organ builder and restorer Bob Yorburg at the History Project. Admission to the exhibit center is free of charge.

Spook-A-Rama Cyclops

Main Event Locations:

W. 12th Street Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza located between The History Project & The Boardwalk on 12th Street

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park 1025 Boardwalk at Denos D Vourderis Place (W. 12th St) Coney Island, Brooklyn 11224

The Coney Island History Project 3059 West 12th Street off the Boardwalk Coney Island, Brooklyn 11224

posted Jul 30th, 2013 in Events and tagged with 2013, August 10, Coney Island,...


Join us on July 1 August 27, for a free screening of "Little Fugitive" at Coney Island Flicks on the Beach. The 1953 movie by Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin was filmed in Coney Island on the beach, boardwalk and in the amusement parks, and will be introduced by the directors' daughter Mary Engel. This year is the 60th anniversary of the film, which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The Coney Island History Project is co-sponsoring the pre-show, which begins at 7:30PM with Coney Poetry presented by Amanda Deutch of PARACHUTE: The Coney Island Performance Festival and a Coney Island history and film trivia contest. Prizes include autographed copies of History Project Director Charles Denson's "Wild Ride: A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family," poetry broadsides from PARACHUTE, and postcards from the Coney Island History Project. Stop by CIHP's tent on the Boardwalk to say hello and learn about our free exhibit center on West 12th Street and oral history archive.

"Little Fugitive," which screens at dusk, stars 7-year-old Joey (Richie Andrusco), who runs away from home to hide out in Coney Island after being tricked into thinking he'd shot his older brother. With his Mom away and with only a few dollars in his pocket, he eats, plays games, rides the carousel and ponies, and collects bottles on the beach and boardwalk to finance more rides.

"Andrusco's chewable little face registers 30 shades of pluck, and codirector Morris Engel's ever-mobile camera casually captures perfection--in sunlight filtering through boardwalk slats, in the quiet descent of the Parachute Jump, in the endlessly repeating pratfalls of the batting cage," writes Eric Hynes in Time Out. "Little Fugitive" is fun for the whole family, and is a perfect time capsule of Coney in the early 50's.

Coney Island Flicks on the Beach are shown at dusk on a jumbo 40-foot screen on the beach at West 10th Street every Monday night through August 19. The free summer series is presented by Rooftop Films in partnership with the Alliance for Coney Island and NYC & Co. "Little Fugitive" is an Artists Public Domain/Cinema Conservancy release. For info about upcoming films, see the schedule in the Coney Island Fun Guide.

The Curious Playland Arcade Art Of Larry Millard

"The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard" will be on view at the Coney Island History Project from May 25 through Labor Day 2013, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 12 noon-6pm. The exhibit of photo documentation and several examples of original artwork being restored is open to the public free of charge. The History Project's exhibition center is located under Deno's Wonder Wheel Park's iconic entrance sign at 3059 West 12th Street, just a few steps off the Boardwalk.

The mural-covered interior of the Playland Arcade on Coney Island's Surf Avenue delighted patrons for many decades yet few knew the story behind the colorful artwork that covered every inch of the establishment. Playland closed in 1981 and the building stood empty until it was demolished in 2013. The Coney Island History Project's multi-year mission to save and document the unusual murals inside the Playland Building ended successfully on February 14 with the removal of several of Larry Millard's iconic artworks and the remaining letters from the Bowery entrance's neon sign hours before demolition.

Previously saved murals were displayed at the Coney Island History Project's exhibit center last year. We worked with Gateway Demolition to remove several of the murals just before demolition. Our previous efforts at preservation were hampered by trespassers, vandals, black mold, the untimely death of Playland's caretaker, Andy Badalamenti, as well as Superstorm Sandy, but finally the story of the artist who created them can be told. Playland Arcade

In the winter of 1957 a mysterious unemployed artist named Larry Millard showed up at the Playland Arcade on Surf Avenue looking for work. Forty-five-year-old Millard claimed to have been a cartoonist for the New York Daily News and offered his services as a sign painter. Playland owner Alex Elowitz hired him to paint some small lettered Skeeball signs. His lettering was perfect and he continued working at the arcade through the summer of 1958 painting large and colorful and murals on every inch of wall space.

Millard followed a daily routine, arriving early in the morning unshaven and smelling of alcohol, suffering from the shakes. He was given a couple of bucks for a bottle of Thunderbird wine that he bought at the liquor store across the street next to Mama Kirsh's restaurant. The drink steadied his hand, enabling him to paint.

Stanley Fox, who worked at the arcade owned by his brother, described Millard as "artsy-looking," with dark hair and a mustache, always wearing a Fedora and usually accompanied by his girlfriend, an African-American woman named Eunice. Millard would arrive daily with sketches to be approved by Elowitz. "My brother paid him by the day, maybe $25. Larry lived somewhere in Coney Island, although no one was sure where."

The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard

Millard's Skeeball signs led to the complex cartoons he illustrated with puns and jokes: busty, leggy women with hapless boyfriends. Many of his murals were in the cartoon style of Lil' Abner creator Al Capp. The public loved his work and he continued painting Playland until every wall was filled. When Millard finished his murals at the Playland building he began painting outdoor signs around Coney Island, and murals at Stauch's and at the B&B Carousell.

Millard disappeared from Coney Island around 1960 and was never seen again. He left a mark much like native petroglyphs: deceivingly simple yet undecipherable and opaque. His work is mysterious and edgy, erotic and "cartoony." When you look past the inherent humor in his pieces it's possible that most of his sketches were sad self-portraits telling his life story: the portrait of a tortured soul who had bad luck with women. --- Charles Denson

Steeplechase Horse

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EXHIBITION CENTER...Opening Memorial Day Weekend for the 2011 season! The Coney Island History Project's  exhibition center at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.  Located on West 12th Street, just off the Boardwalk, our public exhibition center is open from 12 noon - 6 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays  from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Admission is Free!

View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera, folk art  and films of Coney Island's colorful past. This year's opening exhibition will commemorate the Dreamland Fire Centennial with historic images of Dreamland before and after the fire juxtaposed with the site as it is today. Our popular Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name will be on display again, along with a rare Mangels "Fairy Whip" car.

The exhibition center is open year-round by appointment for schools and groups. Send inquiries to

SUNDAY WALKING TOURS...The Coney Island History Project is pleased to announce walking tours of the historic landmarks and current attractions of the amusement district. Our tours are based on CIHP Director Charles Denson's award-winning book Coney Island: Lost and Found, the oral history interviews in our archive and other primary sources. Tours will be offered on Sundays at 12:15 pm from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend as well as to groups by advance reservation. Tickets are $20. Advance purchase of tickets through our event reservation website is recommended since tours are limited to 10-12 people. If a tour has not sold out, the remaining tickets will be available for cash purchase on the day of the tour when the History Project opens at 12 noon.

posted May 27th, 2011 in Events and tagged with

On Saturday, June 26, the Coney Island History Project will celebrate the Cyclone Roller Coaster's 83nd birthday with a surprise birthday get-together. SSHHH! Don't tell the Cyclone, but we've invited friends and fans of the legendary roller coaster to join us from 1- 6pm at the Coney Island History Project's free public exhibition center under the Cyclone on Surf Avenue.

At 2 pm, we'll sing Happy Birthday to the Cyclone, blow out the candles, and cut the cake. Throughout the day, visitors are invited to share their Cyclone memories and photos with historian Charles Densonfor the CIHP's History Archive. The Cyclone was "born" on June 26, 1927 and is an official New York City landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

posted Jun 23rd, 2010 in Events and tagged with

Join us to Celebrate Coney Island's & the Cyclone's Opening Day!

Exhibition Center

Palm Sunday is the traditional season opener for Coney Island's rides and attractions. The Coney Island History Project's public exhibition center under the Cyclone roller coaster will host an Open House on Sunday, March 28th from 12-3 pm to celebrate Coney Island's and the Cyclone's opening day of the 2010 season.

You're invited to view historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past and preview selections from our 2010 exhibition season. Among the treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest existing artifact, an 1823 Toll House sign from the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 9 cents. Admission to the exhibition center is free of charge.

Jimmy Prince, CIHP Distinguished Historian and Retired Proprietor of Coney Island's Major Market, Talking with Visitors from Tennessee. August 1, 2009. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Please stop by on March 28th and say hello to Charles Denson, CIHP Executive Director and author of Coney Island Lost and Found; Jimmy Prince, CIHP Distinguished Historian and longtime proprietor of Coney Island's Major Market; Stan Fox, Coney Island raconteur and veteran penny arcade operator; and staffers Tricia Vita, Amanda Deutch and Jeff Wilday.

The CIHP exhibition center will open for the 2010 season on Saturday, May 29th, Memorial Day Weekend with an exciting new exhibition about archaeology and historic sites in the neighborhood. The exhibition will tie in with our audio/video walking tours, which are downloadable for free via our website's Tours page. The "West End Boardwalk Tour" will make its debut, joining the currently available "Amusement Area: Past and Present" walking tour. This season's display will feature never-before-exhibited artifacts from Steeplechase Park, Feltman's, Astroland and more. We're pleased to announce that the Dreamland Bell, which was raised from the ocean floor by Gene Ritter's dive team in September after nearly 100 years under water will be back at CIHP to ring in the summer season!

Evelyn Lillias & family with souvenir photo taken at History Project's Memory Booth. The Queens resident grew up in the Marlboro Houses in Coney Island. May 25, 2009. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Located on Surf Avenue just east of West 10th Street, the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center is open free of charge on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The centerpiece is an authentic Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name. Visitors are invited to record a video interview and take a free souvenir photo of their visit. For additional info, contact the History Project at or 718-265-2100.

posted Mar 21st, 2010 in Events and tagged with

This morning at the Kickoff event of the IAAPA (The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, Fred Thompson and Skip Dundy, the team who created Coney Island's legendary Luna Park (1903-1946), were inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame. Attending the ceremony and accepting the award on behalf of Coney Island's amusement pioneers were historian Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project and Carol Hill Albert, co-founder of the Coney Island History Project and operator of Coney Island's Cyclone roller coaster. Photos and a video of this morning's ceremony will be available later this afternoon.

"I'm thrilled for the Coney Island History Project to be accepting this award on behalf of Fred Thompson," said Carol Hill Albert, who founded the History Project with her husband Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park. "The Coney Island History Project is located under the world famous Coney Island Cyclone, built in l927, and inspired by the powerful imagination of Fred Thompson. Coney Island's fabulous history was always an answer to 'Can You Top This' and Fred Thompson placed the bar so high that even today amusement parks all over the world are reaping its benefit."


We'd like to see Coney Island rebuilt with the same sense of creativity and wonder that Thompson and Dundy showed 100 years ago," said Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island Lost and Found. "Thompson and Dundy were risk takers who used new technology to create a sense of wonder. They were competitors who joined forces. Their creativity came out of competition. Coney Island needs multiple operators to succeed."

Thompson and Dundy came to Coney Island in 1902 with "A Trip to the Moon," which had been a sensation at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. After a season at George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Park, they leased the former Sea Lion Park from Paul Boyton and built Luna Park, named after Dundy's sister Luna. According to Dundy's obituary in the New York Times, "Mr. Thompson supplied the inventive faculty for the concern, and Mr. Dundy attended to the no less complicated matter of obtaining three-quarters of a million required to start the enterprise. When the gates were thrust open to the public, the partners had just $11 between them."

In 2005, on the occasion of Fred Thompson's induction into the History Project's Coney Island Hall of Fame, historian Charles Denson wrote: "Fred Thompson and his business partner, Skip Dundy, unveiled their greatest creation on the night of May 16, 1903. Luna Park, a fantasyland of exotic towers, minarets, and domes, strung with half a million electric lights, opened for business to an enthralled crowd who had never experienced anything like it... The park, an instant success, featured the Electric Tower, the Dragon's Gorge, a wild animal show and circus, a helter-skelter slide, the Old Mill, and hundreds of other rides and attractions. Elephants and camels strolled the grounds. But it was the park's fantasy architecture that was the main draw. Thompson boasted how he "eliminated all classic conventional forms" and for his model drew on "a sort of free Renaissance and Oriental type."

Luna Park at Night

About IAAPA and the IAAPA HALL of Fame

IAAPA (The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities worldwide and is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the amusement industry.

The IAAPA Hall of Fame was established in 1990 and is considered the amusement industry's highest honor. According to IAAPA, the awards "celebrate outstanding achievement and contributions to the growth and development of the amusement park and attractions industry; an industry that, like few others, depends on the imaginations, talents, and vision of its dream builders." Honorees include Walt Disney, and George Ferris, inventor of the Ferris Wheel. Coney Island amusement industry pioneers who have been honored in past years include Paul Boyton, George C. Tilyou, William F Mangels, and Harry C Baker. LaMarcus A Thompson, whose Switchback Railway, the world's very first roller coaster, was on the site now graced by the Cyclone, was in the very first class of honorees in 1990. Short videos highlighting the work of the IAAPA Hall of Fame honorees, including Thompson and Dundy, can be viewed on IAAPA's website.

The IAAPA Attractions Expo in Las Vegas (November 16-20) will showcase the hottest new products and services and host networking and education opportunities available only at the premier annual conference and trade show for the attractions industry. Organizers estimate more than 28,000 attendees from 90 countries will benefit from IAAPA Attractions Expo. More than 1,000 exhibitors are expected to display on the trade show floor-the centerpiece of the Expo.

About the Coney Island History Project and the Coney Island Hall of Fame

The Coney Island Hall of Fame honors pioneers and visionaries whose creativity and ingenuity helped shape and define Coney Island over the past century. Past honorees include Paul Boyton (built Coney's first amusement park) Charles Feltman (inventor of the hot dog), Dr Martin Couney (Inventor of the Baby Incubator, an exhibit at Luna Park) George C. Tilyou (creator of Steeplechase Park) and ride inventor William F Mangels.

The Coney Island History Project, founded in 2004, is 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. The History Project was founded by Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park. Executive director Charles Denson is a Coney Island native, a noted historian, and the author of the award-winning book Coney Island: Lost and Found. Our mission is to record, archive and share oral history interviews; provide access to historical artifacts and documentary material through educational exhibits, events, tours and a website. In 2009, the History Project debuted the first ever audio/video walking tour of Coney Island. Available as a free download from the CIHP website, the tours provide valuable perspective on the historic and cultural importance of a world-famous neighborhood on the cusp of redevelopment.

posted Nov 19th, 2009 in Events and tagged with

Opening Night of The Coney Island Film Festival October 2, Friday, 7:30 pm at Coney Island USA

Jimmy Prince was the last link to what Mermaid Avenue meant to Coney Island in the "good old days." The Avenue was once a bustling street of family-run mom-and-pop stores. Each block had bakeries, luncheonettes, five-and-dimes, clothing and shoe stores, furniture stores, delis, and butchers. It was a tight-knit community.

The city's urban renewal plan of the 1960s called for the demolition of the entire West End, including Mermaid Avenue, and few businesses survived the development onslaught. Jimmy Prince transformed his Major Meat Market into the soul of an earlier era, a cordial oasis of tradition and hope, a throwback to what Coney Island was and what many dreamed it could be again one day. Prince worked at Major's for sixty years, seven days a week, twelve hours a day, and formed a unique relationship with a community that hungered for respect.

When Jimmy Prince finally faced retirement, it became a painful process that dragged on for over a year, just as the city was heralding another master plan. He dreaded making a formal announcement about the store's closing, but his friends could sense it was coming. His loyal customers expressed their love for him and their fear for a future without him. This film documents Jimmy's decision to retire and the painful process of leaving the Coney Island community that he loved and supported for so many years.

Event Info: Tickets for the "The Prince of Coney Island" screening only, $6 October 2, Friday, 7:30 pm

Opening Night Party tickets $25 (includes screening and party at 9:30pm with open bar and burlesque show, 21 and over to drink).
Advance ticket purchase & (web site:

Screening venue for the "The Prince Of Coney Island":
Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Ave. 2nd Floor, Coney Island
(please note: this venue is not wheelchair accessible)

posted Sep 30th, 2009 in Events and tagged with

Free Event at the Aquarium's Jellyfish Tank & Coney Island Public Library

The Coney Island History Project is pleased to be one of the sponsors of Parachute, Coney's Island's first annual literary and performance festival set to debut next weekend. Described as "two days of poetry, prose, spoken word, performance and jellyfish in Coney Island," the free event takes place at the New York Aquarium's Alien Stingers exhibit in Coney Island (Surf Ave at West 8th Street) at 6:30 pm on September 12 and 13. Reservations are recommended. for the free event. Email or RSVP via the Parachute Festival's Facebook fan page.


"The goal is to create something new and create a bridge over the whole neighborhood — east and west. Festival-goers can come, spend the day, walk around Coney Island, eat lunch at a local restaurant, ride the Cyclone and enjoy a poetry reading," says festival director and poet Amanda Deutch. The History Project's exhibition center will be open next weekend from 2-6 p.m. in conjunction with festival. Stop by to view the Dreamland Bell and Coney Island Icons exhibit, pick up a festival program, and sample Stumptown Coffee. Festival-goers are also invited to download the History's Project's free audio tour of Coney Island to their iPods or listen to it live on their iPhones.

Angie Pontani

Featured readers include an array of established and up-and-coming Brooklyn based poets and writers. Saturday evening's program will be hosted by the legendary local artist and performer Africasso. Saturday's readers are Cara Benson, Charles Denson (Coney Island: Lost and Found), Jibade Khalil Huffman (19 Names for our Band), Dennis Nurkse (former Brooklyn Poet Laureate), Akilah Oliver, Patricia Spear Jones and Edwin Torres.

Sunday evening's program will be hosted by the illustrious burlesque dancer Angie Pontani (Miss Cyclone). Readers include Edmund Berrigan,poet and member of the band, I Feel Tractor; Michael Cirelli, poet and founder of Urban Word NYC; post-punk poet Eileen Myles and John Ventimiglia ("Artie Bucco" from The Sopranos) reading Henry Miller's words on Coney Island.

Free poetry workshops will be led by Urban Word NYC, Patricia Spears Jones and Cara Benson at the Coney Island Public Library on Mermaid Avenue and 19th Street. Email for reservations or more information.

Festival sponsors are Poets & Writers, Bowery Arts & Sciences, Astella Development Corporation, Coney Island History Project. Stumptown Coffee Roasters, The Farm on Adderley, JoMart Chocolates, Coney Island Public Library and New York Aquarium.

posted Sep 8th, 2009 in Events and tagged with

The historic Coney Island Bell from the old Dreamland Park was raised from the ocean floor yesterday after nearly 100 years underwater. Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project is pleased to announce that the Bell will be on special exhibition this weekend at the History Project under the Cyclone roller coaster. Also on view will be period photos of Dreamland and the Bell.


The Coney Island History Project’s free public exhibition center is located under the Cyclone at 824 Surf Avenue just east of W 10th Street. FREE ADMISSION for One and ALL! The center is open for Labor Day weekend on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Sept. 5-7). Hours are 1 to 6 p.m. Next weekend, Sept 12 and 13, the exhibition center will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. in conjunction with Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival

Also on view will be period photos of Dreamland and the Bell along with Charles Denson's photos documenting the raising of the Bell.

The 500-pound bronze bell once welcomed visitors arriving at the pier of Coney Island’s old Dreamland Park, which was on the site of the New York Aquarium. This Channel 7 News video shows the bell arriving at the dock yesterday after a successful rescue mission by the team from “Cultural Research Divers.” The historic bell survived the Dreamland fire of 1911 and was discovered after a 20-year quest by Coney Island diver Gene Ritter.

posted Sep 4th, 2009 in Events and tagged with