History Geeks and Carnival Lore

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weirdguyIt’s not enough to say you have experienced Coney Island to its fullest until you understand the historical foundation of this seaside carnival town. True, a trip to Nathan’s or a stroll down the boardwalk is part of the attraction, but Coney Island USA has captured and preserved all that has made Coney Island great, starting at its Coney Island Museum.

The Coney Island Museum actually began out on the boardwalk, moving to its present location in the 1990s, to a building that dates back to 1916, originally home to Childs Restaurant.

“I’ve been all around the world and there are knockoffs of Coney Island everywhere,” said museum tour guide Jay Singer.

“In my grandfather’s time, Coney Island was an entity within itself,” said Singer about his 1903 Brooklyn-born grandfather.

The items in the collection date back to the heyday years of the carnival town. Singer said the collection began in the late ’70s and although there are tens of thousands of items in the museum’s collection, only a small portion of the items are displayed at one time.

This is the largest private collection of Coney Island memorabilia on public display in the world.

Co-tour guide Marissa Solomon said, “The most popular things in the exhibit are the old-time postcards,” which she said attract museum-goers from all over the world.

MUSEUM_VThe Coney Island Museum is operated by Coney Island USA, a nonprofit founded in 1980 by Costa Mantis, Jane Savitt-Tennen and Dick Zigun, which also founded and hosts the annual Mermaid Parade, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, Burlesque at the Beach, the Coney Island Film Festival and many other programs and exhibitions.

Don’t forget to buy a ticket to the sideshow while you are visiting Coney Island. Stop by the gift shop where you can find vintage jewelry, memorabilia and other cool finds. You can even host a private party, event or wedding at the museum, where there is space also available for photo shoots, movie holding and staging areas.

The museum, located at 1208 Surf Ave., is suitable for all ages, however the sideshow should be viewed under adult discretion.

In addition to finding more information about Coney Island USA programs, events or becoming a member, visit www.coneyisland.com where you can also get local tourist tidbits about the boardwalk and attractions.

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