Coney Island's Cyclone opens and stomachs churn

Erik Knapp, left, and David Zubin, right, the Erik Knapp, left, and David Zubin, right, the first of 100 guests to ride the Cyclone free on opening day, throw their arms in the air as the 87-year-old roller coaster makes its decent at Coney Island on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Luna Park is the first new amusement park to be built in Coney Island in over 40 years, complete with 19 brand new rides, 6 games, 5 food kiosks, and a retail location. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Hundreds of families, tourists and strolling couples flocked to Coney Island's iconic boardwalk where they basked under sunny skies, flew kites in the ocean breeze, ate ice cream and hot dogs and lined up to ride the famous Cyclone.

Erik Knapp, 48, of Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, did not break from his annual ritual Sunday to be first in line and ride the 87-year-old wooden roller coaster, which he first rode with his grandfather when he was 7.

A Cyclone fanatic, Knapp has a tattoo of the classic roller coaster on his arm and vows to never "lose that inner child." Knapp, who was grateful the Coney Island amusement park tradition continues to thrive, said: "This is the people's playground and we almost lost it to condos. This is our mini Riviera."

To christen this year's summer amusement park season, Alberto Zamperla, president of Zamperla Group, which designs and manufactures amusement rides at Luna Park, home of the Cyclone, cracked an egg cream bottle on the front car before hopping into the front seat.

"I love it," he said. "It's nice to have the adrenaline rush because life is about speed. And the Cyclone is speed."

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams opted out of the first dignitary ride. "I had a full breakfast, so there's no way I was getting on." However, he said the Cyclone is the epitome of Brooklyn. "It defines the Brooklyn experience."

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For 18-year-old Thadius Regisford of East Flatbush, returning to Coney Island for opening ceremonies brought back childhood memories when his mother took him to the park.

"It was an atmosphere that was always positive," said Regisford, who came with the Coney Island Generation Gap, a high school after school program where students learn to produce documentaries.

Regisford said the event has inspired him to one day produce a documentary about Coney Island's musicians. "There is a lot of talent that surfaces along this boardwalk," he said. "This is a liberating experience."

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