Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park opened for its 102nd season on Palm Sunday with the annual blessing of the rides, which attracted hundreds of thrills-seekers to the seaside neighborhood for their chance to snag one of the first rides of the year.
“It was a great time, the kids had a great time,” said Dennis Vourderis, who co-operates the park with brother Steve Vourderis. “It was a little chilly but everyone had warm hearts.”
The Vourderis family — who have been in ownership of the park for three generations — kicked off the 2022 season as they always do, with a ceremony on the boardwalk right outside of their park, where they are joined by fellow community leaders and elected officials for the joyous occasion.
If all goes according to plan, the 2022 season will mark the first full one for Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park’s newest addition, the family thrill rollercoaster The Phoenix, which opened last July, offering never-before-seen views of the Coney Island Boardwalk and the Wonder Wheel. 2022 also marks the first season with no capacity restrictions after the amusement district wasn’t permitted to open in 2020 due to the statewide pandemic-related shutdowns, and limited entrance in 2021 to abide by lessening, but still strict, mandates.
“It’s very optimistic for the season being a busy one. Without any capacity limits, of course, we get a full season this year,” Vourderis said. “Opening up without capacity limits and all the mandates that were in place a year ago is certainly a relief to all of us, looking very positive for a wonderful year, a wonderful season.”
The April 10 opening took place one week after the season-opening of neighboring Luna Park on April 2, which means the People’s Playground is now officially open in full, with special hours for schools’ spring break next week.
“We are going to be open from Good Friday, April 15 straight through to April 24,” Vourderis told Brooklyn Paper. “Weather permitting, we will be opening at 11 am and closing in the early evening – 6 or 7 pm — so we’re looking forward to hosting everybody that’s on spring break. [If] they need a place to come that’s a short distance from home, come on down.”
Both Deno’s and Luna Park operate with reduced hours until they open in full swing during summer vacation. During those months, Deno’s will open daily from 11 am to 11 pm, but until then, it’s just weekends and school holidays from 11 am to 6 pm.
City, state and federal politicians were invited to take a free ride on the Phoenix following the Palm Sunday ceremony, and the first 102 guests at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park were treated to free rides on the park’s namesake Ferris wheel.
Some 300 children from the local Salt and Sea Mission enjoyed all the rides they could stomach for two and a half hours, a continuing tradition at Deno’s, started in 1985 by Lula Vourderis in collaboration with the organization’s founder, Debbie Santiago.
New to the festivities this year were 100 students of the New Wave Saturday School for Ukrainian Studies, who performed the national anthem at the start of the ceremony. The students were also gifted two and a half hours of free rides at the amusement park, as their families’ home country continues to face aggression from neighboring Russia.
Notably absent from Coney’s big day was Mayor Eric Adams, who tested positive for COVID Sunday after waking up with a raspy voice, according to his communications team.