New York, June 2007 - Coney Island

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Shoot the Freak, Coney Island, during our marathon Friday in New York on 29 June. 

Players pay to shoot paintball bullets with air-rifles at a live human target - the "freak" -  who wears protective gear and insults the crowd while attempting to dodge the bullets.

Sure, Nathan Handwerker didn't invent the hot dog.  No, that was invented by Charles Feltman in 1874.  But Handwerker made it famous. Nathan's Famous began as a nickel hot dog stand in Coney Island in 1916.

And you've probably heard about the famous hot dog eating contest.  According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four European immigrants held an impromptu hot dog eating contest - whoever eats the most Nathan's hot dogs is the most American.  James Mullen, an Irish immigrant, won the first contest by eating 13 Nathan's hot dogs in buns in 12 minutes, beginning an annual contest that continues to this day. 

Just days after our visit, Takeru Kobayashi, the six-time defending champion, sucked down an amazing 63 hot dogs in only 12 minutes.  But not to be outdone, San Jose's Joey Chestnut completely destroyed Kobayashi by inhaling 66 hot dogs!  To be fair, Kobayashi did have a jaw injury and a pulled wisdom tooth.  What will happen in 2008?

The kid on the left told me that Coney Island is generally accepted as the English adaptation of the Dutch name, Konijn Eiland. Coney is an obsolete and dialectical English word for rabbit. He mentioned that Coney Island had been overrun by rabbits before the island's development into a resort.


The ride operator would raise and lower the kids, teasing them by mixing it up and not always stopping in the same place.  The kids responded with unearthly high-pitched squeals of delight (except for possibly the kid on the right).

A Yankees fan ponders the Anglicization of the island's name from its Dutch origins.

Riding a smiling fish in Coney Island.

Astroland is a theme park at Coney Island that opened in 1962, billing itself as a "Space Age" theme park, although now, the park is more like revisiting the past. 

A 1975 fire destroyed much of the park that Nathan Handwerker (of Nathan's Hot Dog fame) and others had built, but they were able to reconstruct the park.

An ecstatic kid wins a prize at one of Coney Island's skills games.

Coney Island is a photographer's dream, with vivid splashes of color at every turn. I wanted to photograph Coney Island before it is redeveloped.

The developer wants to construct a giant indoor water park and a three-story, glass-enclosed carousel, as well as theatres, arcades, and stores, integrating these with the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone.

A game barker resets one of the games between the onslaught of children.

Wondering if they should join the shrieking people riding on the Cyclone wooden roller coaster, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters still operating.

The ride is rougher and considerably more abrupt than most roller coaster we've ridden, with speeds of up to 60 mph as one plummets, only to be yanked up hard enough to feel your legs pressing against the safety bar, the only thing that's keeping you from becoming a Coney Island projectile.

The Cyclone roller coaster, which opened in 1927, is one of the nation's oldest wooden coasters still in operation. A favorite of some coaster aficionados, the Cyclone includes a 85-foot, 60 degree drop. It is currently owned by Astroland.

This has been a designated NYC landmark since 1988, and is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.


The Cyclone has consistently ranked at or near the top of every roller coaster top ten list published. It has been proclaimed the world's greatest by a broad spectrum of media institutions and roller coaster aficionados.

Time Magazine quoted Charles Lindbergh as saying that a ride on the Cyclone was more thrilling than his historic first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Emilio Franco, a mute since birth, regained his voice on the Cyclone, uttering his first words ever -- "I feel sick"!

After riding The Cyclone, you can soothe your stomach with some ice cream (or shrimp rolls) across the street.


This child wonders why Coney Island is called an island when it's actually a peninsula. 

Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY.  A pirate in the center of a children's ride, with the 150-ft. tall Wonder Wheel looming in the distance.

Clown game at Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY.

Although beaming with joy on this newer merry-go-round, this child wishes for a hand-carved horse of yesteryear.

You see, discerning merry-go-round aficionados know that the first carousel at Coney Island was built in 1876 by Charles I. D. Looff, a Danish woodcarver, with hand-carved horses to ride on, and illuminated by kerosene lanterns, and music provided by a drummer and a flute player. The fare was five cents. 

Built in 1920, Wonder Wheel has both stationary cars and rocking cars that slide along a track. It holds 144 riders, stands 150 feet tall and weighs over 2,000 tons. This is a designated NYC landmark and is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

New York 2007

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