The day has arrived for thrill seekers eager to get back on Coney Island’s cyclone roller coaster, slingshot or thunderbolt drop – the amusement park is officially open.

After 18 months of forced closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and Luna Park in Coney Island are being reopened with a an official ribbon cutting ceremony  and the annual “Blessing of the Rides” ceremony on Friday.

And after the gates are opened, it will be our essential workers getting the first taste of adrenaline the iconic Brooklyn park has to offer. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park is giving 100 frontline workers free rides on the Wonder Wheel.

Coney Island is reopening. Photo: Anna Bradley-Smith for BK Reader.

In a year when much has changed, so too have processes for the more than 100-year-old amusement park.

Paper tickets have been replaced with cards that can be loaded with money and scanned on entering rides, plexiglass and other social distancing markers have been installed – along with a number of hand sanitizing stations, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and Luna Park will both be operating at 33% capacity and following state guidelines, DJ Vourderis, the owner and operator of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, told NBC. The parks will also require advanced reservations, which can be made online.

The Wonder Wheel itself was built during the 1918 pandemic and has social distancing built in, with cabins spaced 12-feet apart, NBC reports.

Coney Island is reopening. Photo: Anna Bradley-Smith for BK Reader.

In a statement, the Vourderis family said they were excited to see everyone back this season.

“2020 marked the first time in 100 years that the wheel has not spun. While it was a devastating time for many, we are excited to welcome back guests and celebrate the life and passion of our parents and grandparents’ hard work who dedicated their lives to providing Coney Island with a warm welcoming amusement park on the Boardwalk.”

And with the reopening, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park will be able to safely celebrate the 100th anniversary of the official opening of its Wonder Wheel ride.

“Coney Island has always been a place where people have come to find comfort. To remember what it feels like to smile. We need that now more than ever,” DJ Vourderis told NBC.

Rides will be open on weekends through Memorial Day, and daily following the holiday weekend.

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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