It was a day for the history books at Coney.
Attendees gathered at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project to celebrate the Seventh Annual History Day on Saturday, August 5.
The celebration, which started at 12 p.m. and concluded in the evening, consisted of a variety of free events, such as music, rides, tours and more.
“History Day has many facets,” said Charles Denson, the director of the Coney Island History Project. “The event is about defining the essence of Coney Island and what it means to anyone who lived, worked, or played here. It’s not about nostalgia, but about what worked in the past and what Coney Island will be in the future. We give recognition to the talented people who work behind the scenes or who have made a difference in the community. Sometimes we induct people into our Coney Island Hall of Fame and pay tribute to their accomplishments with banners and history plaques.”
“We had a fun and successful Seventh Annual History Day celebration,” said Tricia Vita of the Coney Island History Project. “More than 50 people joined the Coney Island History Project’s free guided history tours of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and over 200 took the self-guided tour using our new brochure. The tour stopped at 17 classic attractions, including the 1929 fortunetelling machine ‘Grandma’s Predictions,’ and beloved 1950s kiddie rides like the Pony Cart and Fire Engines that were ‘Made in Coney Island.'”
The tours ended with a ride on the Wonder Wheel. Those that dressed in 1920s garb got to go on the historic ride free of charge.
Art and music were also a big part of the day. “Brooklyn artists Danielle Mastrion of Sheepshead Bay and nine-year-old Lola the Illustrator of Windsor Terrace posed for photos and chatted with visitors in front of their new murals of the Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama,” Vita added. “Singer/songwriter Jen Houston and DJ Dan Kingman entertained us with retro tunes like ‘Where the Boys Are’ and ‘Under the Boardwalk.’”
Stanley Fox, 73, who operated Coney’s Playland Arcade for 40 years and volunteers at the Coney Island History Project discussed the significance of the day. “History Day brings Coney Island back to its roots,” he stressed. “People come back to Coney Island because this is where the amusement area began and where it still thrives.”
“People come to the event to share memories by recording oral histories and some bring family photos to share with our archive,” added Denson. “On August 5th, we dedicated a History Tour and guide that honors the historic and iconic amusements at Wonder Wheel Park. We also had movies in the Astroland Rocket, Brooklyn street games for children, and a celebration with singing and dancing. Our event celebrates the fascinating history and diversity of Coney Island, one of the most unusual places on the planet.”
The event also included a display of Coney Island History Project banners and kiosks emblazoned with Coney Hall of Fame honorees including George C. Tilyou, founder of Steeplechase Park; Dr. Martin Couney, inventor of the baby incubator; Marcus C. Illions, developer of the Coney Island style of carousel carving; and Lady Deborah Moody, who in 1645 founded the town of Gravesend, which included Coney Island, becoming the first woman to found a colony in the New World.
Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park displayed art work and signage by Dan Casola (Spook-A-Rama), Greg Lamarche (Coney Island lettering between Kiddie Park and Wheel), Jorge “Chico” Gallegos (More Rides Mural), The Wizard (Carousel, Jets, Ticket booths), Tommy Holiday (Signage) and the late Barbara Listenik (Pony Carts, Thunderbolt).
“History Day 2017 was a huge success,” said Dennis Vourderis, co-owner of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park in a statement. “We thank everyone who came for their support.”