Act of faith: Officials open Coney amusement district for summer with annual Blessing of the Rides

Act of faith: Officials open Coney amusement district for summer with annual Blessing of the Rides
Photo by Erica Price

It’s officially playtime in the People’s Playground.

Dozens of Brooklynites flocked to Coney Island’s annual Blessing of the Rides ceremony on April 14 to celebrate the opening of the amusement district for the summer. The beloved event carried on the memory of the late Lula and Deno Vourderis, who owned and operated the Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and started the decades-old tradition, according to the pair’s grandson.

“It’s a labor of love, and we’re proud that our third and fourth generations can continue in that legacy,” said DJ Vourderis.

The event began with the blessing at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, where the first 99 attendees got free rides on the iconic wheel, and 300 youngsters from local organization Salt and Sea Mission — a group that assists homeless people, abused women, and at-risk children — received free admission to the park’s kiddie rides.

Vourderis then delivered remarks on his grandparents’ legacy — and unveiled a plaque in their honor that will eventually be mounted under their landmarked ride — before the party moved to nearby Luna Park, where City Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island), Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D-Coney Island), and Borough President Eric Adams joined revelers to watch the annual egg cream christening of the world-famous Cyclone. And the operators of the coaster granted more than 90 thrill-seekers free spins on that ride, too.

Community Board 13’s district manager, Eddie Mark, was one of the lucky attendees who got a free ride on the Cyclone, and said that the day’s festivities foreshadowed a fun summer.

“A good time was had by all, and we’re hoping for a good summer season,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcsh[email protected]chnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.