Coney Island

Luna Park celebrates opening day, gives back to local charities, while Deno’s donates money to Ukraine children 

April 5, 2022 Jaime DeJesus
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The fun returned to Coney Island on Saturday, April 2, as Luna Park opened its gate for the 2022 season. 

Luna’s neighbor, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, will follow, officially opening on Palm Sunday, April 10. It has already earmarked some of the proceeds to help Ukrainian children.

This year marked the 95th birthday of the world-famous Cyclone rollercoaster, which was christened with an egg cream by State Sen. Diane Savino, who represents Coney.

President and CEO at Central Amusement International Inc. Alessandro Zamperla with State Senator Diane Savino.
Photo courtesy of Luna Park/Facebook

“We are incredibly thankful for our amazing community, guests, partners, and elected officials who attended Luna Park in Coney Island’s Opening Day yesterday,” said Luna Park in a statement. “It was a day filled with fun, festivities, and good vibes, all for a good cause!

“In keeping with our annual tradition, proceeds from our opening-day wristband sales will be donated to three incredible local organizations,” the statement added.

Randy Peers, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said it was great to be back in the amusement area to celebrate the season.

“There is absolutely no better place on earth to be than opening day for Coney Island and the amusements, including the 95-year-old Cyclone rollercoaster,” he wrote on Facebook. “But after two grueling years of COVID, this opening was more special than ever.   

“I am truly blessed to be a small part of today, as one of the most special places in Brooklyn and all of NYC, reopened with a renewed sense of optimism. So many dignitaries to thank, starting of course with Alessandro Zamperla and the entire Zamperla family [owners of Luna Park] who have invested so much in Coney Island,” Peers wrote.

Councilmember Ari Kagan, whose district includes the Coney amusement area, celebrated his first opening day at Coney Island.

“[I] enjoyed every minute at the grand opening of Luna Park amusement park and famous Cyclone,” he said. “Was happy to join many elected officials andcommunity leaders, kids and their parents, local residents and tourists at this important occasion.”

Performers on stilts get park enthusiasts’ attention atthe opening of the park.
 Photos courtesy of Luna Park Facebook

He also thanked the Zamperla family for helping local charities.

“I am especially proud that Zamperla International agreed to donate part of their income yesterday to three important community groups: Coney Island Sharks, Operation HOOD & Children of Promise,” he said. “We should never forget that the strength of Coney Island is based on its great, talented and resilient community. We are all in this together.”

Although Deno’s opening day is April 10, it did open its newest rollercoaster, the Phoenix, beforehand, and it sent all proceeds to the UNICEF Save the Children of Ukraine Fund. 

“We want to express our deepest gratitude to all who came out on Saturday to ride the Phoenix and those who donated to UNICEF – Save the Children of Ukraine,” the Vourderis family, owners of the park,wrote. “Your generosity and kindness helps those in great need. We are thankful to be part of such a wonderful community. See you next week!

Deno’s ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. They will include the 37th Annual Blessing of the Rides at its amusement park. The first 104 park-goers will also get to ride the Wonder Wheel for free.

“The Vourderis family is delighted to invite everyone to the springtime opening,” say Dennis and Steve Vourderis, Deno’s owners/operators. 

The Vourderis family open the Phoenix. Proceeds from donations go to help children in Ukraine. Photos courtesy of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park Facebook

In addition, kids from the local Salt N Sea Mission get to enjoy the rides free. 

“We cherish and honor the memory of our parents, Denos and Theodora Lula Vourderis, who created this tradition with the Mission founder Debbie Santiago in 1985,” they added. “And we also honor Milton Berger [longtime press agent for the Coney Island amusement district, who died in 1997] by continuing the Coney Island Palm Sunday Opening [which Berger] began in 1956.”

In the 1960s, the Vourderises started a hot-dog pushcart stand on the boardwalk, which would later become Deno’s Snack Bar. There, Theodora cooked fried shrimp, chicken, and whipped up cotton candy for visitors. The food concession site expanded to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, employing four generations of Vourderis family members and local residents.

Last year, the intersection of West 12th Street and Riegelmann Boardwalk was dedicated and co-named Theodora Lula Vourderis Way.

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