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Amusement Parks: IAAPA Hall of Fame to Luna Park Creators, History Project Accepts Award

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At the Kickoff event of the IAAPA (The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, Fred Thompson and Skip Dundy, the team who created Coney Island’s legendary Luna Park (1903-1946), were inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame. 

Attending the ceremony and accepting the award on behalf of Coney Island’s amusement pioneers were historian Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project and Carol Hill Albert, co-founder of the Coney Island History Project and operator of Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster. 

“I’m thrilled for the Coney Island History Project to be accepting this award on behalf of Fred Thompson, ” said Carol Hill Albert, who founded the History Project with her husband Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park. “The Coney Island History Project is located under the world famous Coney Island Cyclone, built in l927, and inspired by the powerful imagination of Fred Thompson. Coney Island’s fabulous history was always an answer to ‘Can You Top This’ and Fred Thompson placed the bar so high that even today amusement parks all over the world are reaping its benefit.”

We’d like to see Coney Island rebuilt with the same sense of creativity and wonder that Thompson and Dundy showed 100 years ago, ” said Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island Lost and Found. “Thompson and Dundy were risk takers who used new technology to create a sense of wonder. They were competitors who joined forces. Their creativity came out of competition. Coney Island needs multiple operators to succeed.”

Thompson and Dundy came to Coney Island in 1902 with “A Trip to the Moon, ” which had been a sensation at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. After a season at George C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park, they leased the former Sea Lion Park from Paul Boyton and built Luna Park, named after Dundy’s sister Luna. According to Dundy’s obituary in the New York Times, “Mr. Thompson supplied the inventive faculty for the concern, and Mr. Dundy attended to the no less complicated matter of obtaining three-quarters of a million required to start the enterprise. When the gates were thrust open to the public, the partners had just $11 between them.”

In 2005, on the occasion of Fred Thompson’s induction into the History Project’s Coney Island Hall of Fame, historian Charles Denson wrote: “Fred Thompson and his business partner, Skip Dundy, unveiled their greatest creation on the night of May 16, 1903. Luna Park, a fantasyland of exotic towers, minarets, and domes, strung with half a million electric lights, opened for business to an enthralled crowd who had never experienced anything like it… The park, an instant success, featured the Electric Tower, the Dragon’s Gorge, a wild animal show and circus, a helter-skelter slide, the Old Mill, and hundreds of other rides and attractions. Elephants and camels strolled the grounds. But it was the park’s fantasy architecture that was the main draw. Thompson boasted how he “eliminated all classic conventional forms” and for his model drew on “a sort of free Renaissance and Oriental type.”

About IAAPA and the IAAPA HALL of Fame

IAAPA (The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities worldwide and is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the amusement industry.

The IAAPA Hall of Fame was established in 1990 and is considered the amusement industry’s highest honor. According to IAAPA, the awards “celebrate outstanding achievement and contributions to the growth and development of the amusement park and attractions industry; an industry that, like few others, depends on the imaginations, talents, and vision of its dream builders.” Honorees include Walt Disney, and George Ferris, inventor of the Ferris Wheel. Coney Island amusement industry pioneers who have been honored in past years include Paul Boyton, George C. Tilyou, William F Mangels, and Harry C Baker. LaMarcus A Thompson, whose Switchback Railway, the world’s very first roller coaster, was on the site now graced by the Cyclone, was in the very first class of honorees in 1990. Short videos highlighting the work of the IAAPA Hall of Fame honorees, including Thompson and Dundy, can be viewed on IAAPA’s website.

The IAAPA Attractions Expo in Las Vegas (November 16-20) will showcase the hottest new products and services and host networking and education opportunities available only at the premier annual conference and trade show for the attractions industry. Organizers estimate more than 28, 000 attendees from 90 countries will benefit from IAAPA Attractions Expo. More than 1, 000 exhibitors are expected to display on the trade show floor-the centerpiece of the Expo.

About the Coney Island History Project and the Coney Island Hall of Fame

The Coney Island Hall of Fame honors pioneers and visionaries whose creativity and ingenuity helped shape and define Coney Island over the past century. Past honorees include Paul Boyton (built Coney’s first amusement park) Charles Feltman (inventor of the hot dog), Dr Martin Couney (Inventor of the Baby Incubator, an exhibit at Luna Park) George C. Tilyou (creator of Steeplechase Park) and ride inventor William F Mangels.

The Coney Island History Project, founded in 2004, is a not-for-profit organization that aims to increase awareness of Coney Island’s legendary and colorful past and to encourage appreciation of the Coney Island neighborhood of today. The History Project was founded by Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park. Executive director Charles Denson is a Coney Island native, a noted historian, and the author of the award-winning book Coney Island: Lost and Found. Our mission is to record, archive and share oral history interviews; provide access to historical artifacts and documentary material through educational exhibits, events, tours and a website. In 2009, the History Project debuted the first ever audio/video walking tour of Coney Island. Available as a free download from the CIHP website, the tours provide valuable perspective on the historic and cultural importance of a world-famous neighborhood on the cusp of redevelopment. 

See also:
Amusement Parks: NYC to buy land to revive Coney Island amusements
Amusement Advisory Panel Announces Recommendations for Amusement Park Development in Coney Island

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