Coney Island’s Luna Park Opens for the Season

April 17, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

ELECTRO SPIN: The Electro Spin was a common favorite among visitors to Luna Park this weekend, though some of the younger riders found it a bit too frightening. (Tara MacIsaac/The Epoch Times)
ELECTRO SPIN: The Electro Spin was a common favorite among visitors to Luna Park this weekend, though some of the younger riders found it a bit too frightening. (Tara MacIsaac/The Epoch Times)
NEW YORK—The rain didn't deter dedicated Cyclone fans from coming out for the season's inaugural free ride on Saturday. It may be Luna Park's second year in operation, but the Cyclone roller coaster is an iconic, nearly century-old part of Coney Island's history.

On Saturday the first 100 riders got on the “high-thrill” ride for free.

Raymond Persaud, 17, visited the park on sunnier Sunday instead. It was his first time there without his family. He remembers his first trip to Coney Island when he was 5-years-old. The Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel are staples from the past, though the year-old Electro Spin has made its way into his favorites.

Luna Park's operator, New Jersey-based Zamperla, is opening a new amusement park this year. Scream Zone is right next to Luna Park and will feature four new rides, including two roller coasters. A park employee said the new rides are expected to open this week.

The 66-foot Soaring Eagle roller coaster features 1,400 feet of track. Another coaster, the Steeplechase, will reach a height of 65 feet. The 100-foot-tall Zenobio will spin the stomachs of even staunch coaster fans as it zips around at 60 mph. The Sling Shot will launch riders 200 feet into the air. According to the New York Post, the total cost of constructing the amusements was $12 million.

As one amusement opens, another closes at Coney Island.

Coney Island is home to a strange tradition of sideshow spectacles. The “Congress of Curious Peoples” is a 10-day festival that ended on Sunday. Bizarre personalities featured at the Freak Bar. This year included Lil' Miss Firefly, the world's smallest fire eater, balloon swallower, and escape artist, as well as Jennifer Miller, a bearded lady of many talents.

The tradition stretches back to the 1860s, but it's modern form has become “curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice in Wonderland might say. The sideshow is a very self-aware and scholarly phenomenon these days, featuring an academic conference on the relationship between education and spectacle in American amusements.