Coney is back!: People’s Playground opens for the season

Coney is back!: People’s Playground opens for the season
Jim McDonnell

The Cyclone is now a 90s kid!

Brooklyn’s beloved wooden roller coaster will celebrate 90 years in operation this weekend, and its birthday party on April 9 at 10 am will also kick off the Coney Island season. One of the iconic coaster’s biggest fans is thrilled with the landmark anniversary — but said he is looking forward to a bigger party down the road.

“A 90th anniversary is great! It’s hard to believe that we own one of the oldest roller coasters in the world,” said Erik Knapp, known as “Mr. Cyclone” because of his dedication to the ride. “I personally can’t wait until we hit 100 — then I’m going to get my tattoo of the Cyclone redone with 100 on it! But 90 years is not bad, not bad at all.”

The Cyclone celebration will start at 10 am, with a morning extravaganza of games and giveaways, including free samples of Brooklyn Seltzer Boys classic egg creams — although we suggest you wait until after taking a spin on the Cyclone! The first 100 people in line will get a free ride when the historic coaster sets off at noon. But you need to get up pretty early to beat Knapp to the front of that line — the Cyclone booster from Benshonhurst routinely takes the first spot.

Coney’s other iconic ride — Deno’s Wonder Wheel — will have its own party that morning. Join brothers Dennis and Steve Vourderis — who own the wondrous wheel — for the 32nd annual “Blessing of the Rides” at 11 am. With the ceremony complete, the Vourderis brothers will officially open Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and the first 97 revelers can score a free ride on the Wheel, in honor of its 97 years of spinning glory.

Once you have returned to the ground, head to the Coney Island History Project on W. 12th Street, just outside the entrance to Deno’s Wonder Wheel, for a look at historic artifacts, photos, and films chronicling the colorful past of the People’s Playground. Among the treasures on display are an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name, “Skully,” the freaky skull figure from Coney’s classic Spook-A-Rama ride, and an 1823 wooden toll house sign that proclaimed a whopping five cent fee for a horse and rider. The History Project will open its doors at 1 pm, and admission will not even cost you a nickel.

Then get a bite of history! Stroll to the corner of W. 10th Street and Surf Avenue, where the original Coney Island hot dog is making a comeback! After a 63-year absence, Feltman’s of Coney Island returns to the spot where Charles Feltman invented the hot dog in 1867 — and where a bun slicer named Nathan Handwerker worked before opening Nathan’s Famous down the block! The restaurant is officially scheduled to open on Memorial Day, but this Sunday the hot dog kiosk will offer a sneak taste so that patrons can sample the eight-inch frank bursting with flavor from a secret spice mix. A dog will run you $4.25.

Coney Island’s Opening Day starts at the Cyclone (Surf Avenue at W. 10th Street in Coney Island, www.lunaparknyc.com). April 9 at 10 am. Free.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.