Life is like a wheel.
Coney Island and its fans around the world had hoped to celebrate the 100th birthday of Deno’s Wonder Wheel with music and entertainment throughout the Memorial Day weekend. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put all those plans on hold.
The Vourderis family, who operate the popular attraction, joined fans, elected officials and Coney Island historians on social media and Youtube to express their love for one of the country’s most famous Ferris wheels.
"The Wonder Wheel is a symbol of joy and one of Coney Island's architectural gems. What a privilege to celebrate 100 years!” said Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island. “We are lucky to have such an iconic landmark continue to grace the Coney Island skyline and provide riders a true feeling of amazement and thrill. I hope all New Yorkers join me in wishing the wheel a happy birthday and toasting its centennial anniversary."
“The Wonder Wheel is one hundred years old this weekend — but it feels timeless,” wrote Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The countless summer memories it’s created for New Yorkers and visitors alike define summer in our city. We’ll all be back enjoying Coney Island soon, New York City. Have faith.”
“Happy 100th birthday to our iconic and landmarked Wonder Wheel, which has been spinning magic and childhood memories for so many families throughout the decades,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger. “Cannot wait until we can celebrate in person. We will get through this. Thank you to the Vourderis family and the entire team for your great upkeep of this NYC treasure.”
The cars were placed back on the wheel on May 23, according to the Coney Island Facebook page.
“Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the cars being placed on the Wonder Wheel today brings hope that brighter days are ahead in the near future,” the page said.
“Yes, the cars are going up at this moment on Deno's Wonder Wheel for the Wheel's 100th birthday as a symbol of hope during these difficult times and of brighter days ahead!” added Deno’s Wonder Wheel’s Facebook page. “Many thanks to our friend Bruce Handy, who says ‘it's raining, the Wheel is blooming,’ for his persistence in getting this rare shot. Opening date for #DenosWonderWheel's 100th season is yet to be determined.”
One of the bigger surprises came on Monday, May 25 when several members of the Vourderis family posted a Youtube video featuring several clips of them thanking their patrons, saying how much they miss them, and wishing a happy birthday to the Wonder Wheel.
“Happy Birthday, Wonder Wheel!,” said Dennis Vourderis. “We hope you are staying safe and happy and healthy. We hope to see you on the Wonder Wheel soon. Hang in there.”
“Thank you to all of our loyal guests. We hope to see you all soon,” added Steven Vourderis.
“I’ll be right here with an important question for you: Would you like a swinging car or a stationary car? Until then, be safe and thank you,” said another family member.
Others sang “Happy Birthday” to the ride that was built in 1920.
Director of the Coney Island History Project Charles Denson also posted his own video.
“Inside my new book on the Wonder Wheel is a 1920 song celebrating the joys of the Wonder Wheel,” he said. “It’s written to the tune of the old favorite ‘Sidewalks of New Yorks’ We planned to invite everyone to sing this song during the Memorial Day celebration for this wheel’s 100th birthday during the weekend. There's been a change in plans. Since we can’t be together on the boardwalk this weekend, I’m inviting everyone to sing along with me and show the wheel some love during these difficult times.”