March 25: You're Invited to Coney Island's Opening Day

Coney Island History Project

The Coney Island History Project is located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Photo: Jim McDonnell

You're invited to visit the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center on Coney's traditional Opening Day, Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past. Take a free souvenir photo with the iconic Cyclops head from Deno's Spook-A-Rama dark ride and an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name. Among the treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest surviving artifact: The 1823 wooden Toll House Sign dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to go over Coney Island Creek to "the island" was 5 cents!

This Sunday only, as a special added attraction, visitors are invited to look through an antique arcade machine called a Cail-O-Scope and experience stereoview 3-D images of early 1900's Coney Island. The machine is set for 25 cents. Special thanks to arcade restorer Bob Yorburg, who is bringing this treasure filled with rare, unusual Coney Island images from his collection to the History Project for opening day festivities. The Coney Island History Project will be open 1:00PM-6:00PM. Admission is free of charge.

2018 marks the 14th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project and our seventh season at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Since our inception in 2004 with a portable recording booth on the Boardwalk, followed by the opening of the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2005, and the inaugural season of our exhibition center under the Cyclone at Astroland Park in 2007 and moving to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park in 2011, we have proudly offered "Free Admission for One and All!" at our exhibits and special events.

Opening Day festivities start at 10:45AM on the Boardwalk with the 34th Annual Blessing of the Rides at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. The late Pastor Debbe Santiago of Coney Island's Salt and Sea Mission originated the event with Denos D. Vourderis, who invited children from the Mission to enjoy free rides and Easter baskets, a tradition that continues today. 

Deacon Toyin Fakumoju of the Mission will lead the Blessing this year and the NYC Fire Department Ceremonial Unit will present the colors and sing the National Anthem. A ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by park owners Dennis and Steve Vourderis will be followed by free rides on the Wonder Wheel for the first 98 guests in celebration of the Wheel's 98th year.  

At Luna Park, the first 100 on line at the Cyclone roller coaster will ride the roller coaster for free and egg cream samples will be given out. Coney Island's 1920 Wonder Wheel and the 1927 Cyclone are official New York City landmarks.

The Palm Sunday opener was conceived in 1956 by Milton Berger as a publicity campaign for his newest client, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce, to establish “an early-season and official opening consciousness in the public’s mind.” 

Located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel, just a few steps off the Boardwalk, the Coney Island History Project is open free of charge on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day from 1:00-7:00PM. We will also be open on Easter Sunday, April 1st, from 1:00-6:00PM. The Coney Island History Project is open year round for private group visits and our weekend walking tours as well as by appointment to record interviews with people who have memories of Coney Island for our Oral History Archive.


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