Luna Park

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Luna Park has grown from strength to strength since it was opened in 1912. Luna’s big mouth (the moon man) is a major icon that has inspired several generations of Melbournians and its artists. At the beginning of the century St Kilda was considered the Mecca of fun and entertainment, it provided many hotels, dance halls, cinemas and had an active foreshore where people from all over Melbourne came to holiday at the sea side. Luna Park was at the epicenter of all these destinations.

Below the electric sign the central entrance of Luna Park is the portal of a magic kingdom. The magnetic face with its open mouth and goggling eyes has gone through a number of facelifts over the decades, the latest being in 1998 when the designers realized that the original face was hidden beneath layers of later versions. The layers were removed to reveal the first Moon man, and a sculptor made a fiberglass mold of his features that they placed over the remains of the original face. The bright colors of yellow, orange, red and blue of the original face were rediscovered. The entrance is over the top with its orange electric rays shining over the moon face that glows like a beacon at night. The entrance is dominated by two towers topped by Moorish domes and is enhanced by lights that outline all its features. The lights continue to define the framework of the Scenic Railway which is one of its oldest attractions (more than a century).

A St Kilda councilor claimed in 1932 that Luna Park was ‘the star attraction’ of St Kilda and that it had a magnetic influence that constantly attracted record crowds. During World War I Luna Park stayed opened and cheered up all those who entered through its portals. During the Depression in the 1930s it kept up people’s spirits. The Big Dipper was described as ‘the supreme thrill machine’. Other key attractions were the Carousel (known as the War and Peace carousel) with its sixty-eight hand painted horses, the Giggle Palace (distorting mirrors), the River Caves, the Water Shute, the Dodgems which have survived to this day (illustration) and numerous games and sideshows to name but a few. There were performing clowns and even tightrope walkers who performed from the heights without a safety net. The original Luna Park also had an elephant and even sharks in a large tank! The offerings kept on changing over the decades, some features like the Big Dipper closed while others took their place.

Luna Park also celebrates significant festivals such as the Chinese New Year, itself a Lunar Festival, from the 21st-22nd of February. The Park was decorated with Chinese Lanterns, craft activities for kids, a café that served Chinese Food. The highlight was the giant Hong Kong style Dragon , which snaked its way through the park accompanied by the Lion Dancers. There were also displays of Kung Fu.

What are your first memories of Luna Park? I remember going to the Park when I was an adolescent, I felt very nervous about the chaotic rise and fall of the Scenic Railway, but the most terrifying experience was going on the Rotar which closed down in 1997. I remember climbing into a large spherical structure and as the machinery was activated it began to rotate at a break-neck speed, as it gathered in momentum the floor disappeared and I was sucked into the sides of the Rotar. I remember that my stomach was left behind as I stood there sandwiched to the wall.

Perhaps you can send your account of your favorite ride to St Kilda News.

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