Colorado Carousel Society's
2005 Tour

By Dennis Towndrow

On June 20th of this year, approximately 26 members of the CCS (Colorado Carousel Society) attended a three-day tour of Chicago land’s carousels.  In addition, a subset of that group spent three more days visiting several merry-go-rounds in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area.

Chicago by chartered bus …
Day one of the Chicago tour started with the Eden Palais salon carousel at Victorian Palace (Sanfalippo Mansion), in Barrington Hills, Illinois.  With a facade built by Alexander Devos of Belgium, interior constructed by a multitude of international artisans, and a magnificent restoration effort performed by over a dozen specialists, this gem is truly a masterpiece of extraordinary proportions.  Even better, CCS members were allowed to ride the beautiful Eden Palais, not once, not twice, but an unprecedented three times.

Once the group was pulled from their racing horses and rocking gondolas, they proceeded to the actual mansion.  Here they viewed magnificent collections of beautifully restored antique music machines, phonographs, arcades, gambling machines, chandeliers, art glass, and the world’s largest restored theatre pipe organ.

After leaving the Victorian Palace the group headed for the ultra-contrasting Theel carousel at Santa’s Village in Dundee, Illinois.  To some, this was just another piece of modern metal machinery.  To others, it was chance to ride a piece of merry-go-round history.  Either way, everyone got a kick out of seeing Santa in June. 

Next members traveled to local artist and restorer, Peggy and Rich Seehafer's home.  The group was not only greeted with all the hospitality one could ever dream of, but also with the opportunity to see just how one goes about painting the various parts of a carousel horse.   While Peggy prepared for her painting demonstration downstairs, her husband Rich was upstairs providing some useful tips on carousel restoration.  Carrousel animals have been a great joy in Peggy's life.  In fact, the Seehafer's have been restoring these fantastic figures for over twenty years.  Peggy even tells us: "Whether I am painting on a restored figure or canvas, or hand coloring my photography, the arts just keep going around."

As the group headed back toward Chicago many were thinking about what dinner could possibly include, or what the next carousel might look like.  But no one anticipated what they were about to hear.  Soon after getting off the bus, members gathered around a pristine Chance carousel at the Jack A. Claes Pavilion in
Elk Grove, Illinois.  It was there that officials told of another merry-go-round located in the children’s amusement area of the park.  With that note, the entire group was on their feet and running to see just what the mysterious ride might look like.  Soon after, they came to rest one by one, in front of a vintage Alan Herschell kiddie carousel.  Because this delightful little merry-go-round had never been reported to the National Carousel Association, and attendees had not expected to see it, there was a genuine mood of excitement amongst the group and park management.  In fact, a preliminary plan to restore the A/H “kiddie” was made on the spot.  

Eden Palais Salon Carousel
Victorian Palace (Sanfalippo Mansion), - Barrington Hills, Illinois
(photos speak for themselves)


Theel Carousel
Santa's Village - Dundee, Illinois

Susan Knapp and Jan Hardy go for a chariot ride ^

Visit to Artist and Restorer, Peggy and Rich Seehafer's

Billie Noren, and the Collins get some useful tips on carousel restoration from Rich Seehafer upstairs, while Peggy Seehafer demonstrates painting techniques downstairs.

Chance Carousel
The Jack A. Claes Pavilion - Elk Grove, Illinois

Dennis Towndrow & Renee' Dannen take a swan ride while John Caruso hops on the "whole" horse.

Allen Herschell "Kiddie" Carousel
Pirates' Cove - Elk Grove, Illinois
The Colorado group rushes to see just what this mysterious ride might be.

Day two
brought even more carousel rides and Chicago highlights, as the Colorado group made their way to KiddieLAND in Melrose Park, Illinois.  The park has been family owned since 1929 and they are very proud of their beautiful PTC #72 carousel.  Everyone had a ball riding and photographing the many signature horses.  They also felt quite privileged to have Marianne Stevens there to point out the large number 72 on the center pole of the machine.

After leaving KiddieLAND attendees made their way to Lincoln Park Zoo to see the Carousel Works Endangered Species merry-go-round.   There are several carousels of this type at various zoos around the country.  Nonetheless, this particular machine seems to have a special look and feel.  Plus, there was plenty of time on this tour to ride one’s favorite piece(s) over and over again.

The next and final stop of the day was the carousel at Chicago’s Navy Pier.  Designed exclusively for the Pier by Fabricon Carousel Co. of New York, this merry-go-round recreates the nostalgic feel of the 1920s, when an older wooden machine charmed a previous generation of visitors.  The carrousel's 36 hand-painted animals were designed to represent the different styles used throughout the history of the carousel.  A sea monster, lion, cat, and playful frog are just some of the creatures you will find revolving around the ride. The rounding boards of the Navy Pier carousel include hand-painted scenes that represent the Pier’s history as well. 

PTC #72 Carousel
KiddieLAND - Melrose Park, Illinois

^ Ron Rynes shows members some old photos of KiddieLAND.
Gina Quackenbush, Marianne Stevens and Jean Martell ride one of PTC 72's chariots ^

 ^ PTC 72 center pole And a nice little German Kiddie Merry-Go-Round ^

Carousel Works’ Endangered Species Carousel
Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago, Illinois

Billie Noren prepares for one last ride on this very cool carousel ^

^ Lynn Collins on a goat? -- Go figure ....

Fabricon Carousel
Navy Pier
- Chicago, Illinois
Carmel Sea Monster reproduction ^

Day three started with a visit to Lisa Parr’s restoration studio.  Here the group had a rare opportunity to see some of Lisa’s work and to visit with renowned carousel author, Tobin Fraley.  When attendees weren’t viewing the great carousel figures on hand, or having Tobin autograph their books, they were participating in a contest to see who could find the most rabbits around the Parr’s house.  Billie Noren was the winner, with a count of 157.

Next the agenda moved from a carousel nature, to a more typical tourist type adventure.  The afternoon started with a Lake Michigan boat tour and ended with a shopping trip on famous Michigan Avenue.  Both activities gave members a genuine flavor of Chicago life.

It wasn’t long however before they found themselves back in their real element, surrounded by carousel figures.  This time the venue was a restaurant.  A restaurant full of surprises that is.  Although they heard there were a “few” privately owned pieces inside, CCS members had no idea the magnitude of what they were about to see.  There were over 20 figures in total – many of which were very rare Frederick Heyn pieces.  For some this was the first time they had seen or even heard of a Heyn Sea Monster (Dragon).  For others was the first time they had seen a Heyn piece of any kind.  The Barn of Barrington Restaurant was truly a grand finale to a wonderful three-day Chicago excursion.

Lisa Parr’s Restoration Studio and
Visit with Renowned Carousel Author, Tobin Fraley

Lisa Parr (far right) explains the rules of the great rabbit hunt.  Lisa's Limonaire Freres (Paris) carrousel Rabbit

Tobin signs Renee's carousel book.

Barn of Barrington Restaurant

Barrington, Illinois

Rare Frederick Heyn pieces were just some of the many carousel figures hiding behind these restaurant walls.

Milwaukee by caravan
Day one of the Milwaukee tour started with a visit to an amazing private collection.  Guests were able to view over 30 carousel figures by a verity of carvers.  The hosts of this astounding display even arranged several pieces to help novices differentiate between Armitage Herschell, Dare and Parker carvings.  Once again the hospitality and carousel expertise was overwhelming. 

The next stop on the agenda was the charming Waterloo Carousel of Waterloo, Wisconsin. Purchased from the Curtis Brothers Carnival in 1925, this 1911 Parker carousel has been running in beautiful Firemen's Park since that time.  It is comprised of 28 jumping horses, 2 chariots and a 1915 North Tonawanda band organ.  The carousel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and National Historical Register in 1997.  It also received the NCA Historical Carousel Award in 2002.  Restoration of the carousel was accomplished by Lisa Parr between 1987 and 1991. 

Something has to be said about carousel people and their generosity.  Once again, the Colorado visitors were not allowed to leave town without first having a bite to eat.  In this case, the food was “forgotten cake” and the gracious hosts were Gordon and Margo Cronin – long-time operators of the Waterloo carousel.  Gordon even escorted the group to the perfect place to catch a glimpse of their carousel-decorated water tower.   

Just down the road from Waterloo is the small town of Marshall, Wisconsin – home of the Little A-Merrick-A Amusement Park and a 1950’s metal Allan Herschell merry-go-round.  Every place seems to have their own special charm when in comes to carousels and Little A-Merrick-A was no exception.

The final stop of the day was the famous Ella’s Deli in Madison, Wisconsin and their unique 1927 Parker/Who knows what carousel.  Ella’s ice cream parlor and café really is a fascinating place.  Furthermore, the delightful merry-go-round outside makes for a great ride -- both before and after dinner.

Milwaukee Area Private Collection

Just who did carve that carousel horse anyway?  Our Milwaukee area hosts explain the differences.

1911 Parker
Firemen's Park - Waterloo, Wisconsin

Donna Bowlin, riding her own special painted pony. ^

A patriotic rounding board, some good old “forgotten cake” with Gordon and Margo Cronin, and very cool carousel-decorated water tower.
What else could a person want?

1950’s Metal Allan Herschell
Little A-Merrick-A - Marshall, Wisconsin

Janie Rossitto on her very fast moving zebra ^

1927 Parker/?
Ella’s Deli - Madison, Wisconsin

From the carousel outside, to the hundreds of moving gadgets and gizmos inside, one just has to love Ella's Deli.

Day two of the Milwaukee tour started with what is undoubtedly the most controversial carousel on the planet.  With over 20,000 lights and 269 handcrafted animals, this 80-foot diameter, 35-ton merry-go-round has been called everything from “spectacular” to “grotesque.”  But either way you slice it, you can’t help but feel there is a lot of history behind the making of the House on the Rock Carousel.

Another characteristic that make this carousel unique is that it doesn't serve as an interactive piece that can be ridden.  And with all the animals on the carousel, there is not a single horse.  Instead, over 1,300 equine figures are mounted on the walls of the massive merry-go-round building.

After spending most of the day at House on the Rock, the group eventually made there way to the Wisconsin Dells, just in time to catch a bite to eat and get a good night’s sleep.

House on the Rock Carousel
Spring Green, Wisconsin

Most controversial carousel on the planet? -- What do you think ...

 ^ 1,300+ Horses Mounted on Walls --------------------- House on the Rock - Doll Carousel ^

Day three's agenda gave some CCS members the chance to sleep in a bit.  Others chose to visit Wisconsin Dells' fiberglass merry-go-rounds at Riverview Park, Carousel Inn & Suites, and Tommy Bartlett’s Gyrotron.

By noon the Colorado group had assembled once again.  This time they gathered along a parade route rather than a carousel.  It was “The Great Circus Parade,” produced and staged by the Circus World Museum of Baraboo, Wisconsin.  With its 5 antique circus wagons, 15 bands, 1200 costumed participants, 350 equines and nearly two-dozen exotic animals, the parade exhibited a true historical re-creation of the lavish American circus street parades from over a century ago.

Circus World Museum is just around the corner from the parade route and consequently was the next stop on the tour.  Once on the museum grounds, members had the chance to explore the extensive visitors center, examine the many circus wagons, witness a fantastic Big Top Circus, and of course ride the Museum’s c.1917 Herschell-Spillman carousel.  This merry-go-round is a 2 row, portable, with 24 Jumping Horses (including 2 bucking broncos), 2 chariots, and band organ.  It has been at Circus World since 1967. 

Fiberglass Merry-Go-Rounds
Wisconsin Dells

Riverview Park

Carousel Inn & Suites

^ Tommy Bartlett’s Gyrotron - Wisconsin Dells ------- “The Great Circus Parade” - Baraboo, Wisconsin ^

c.1917 Herschell-Spillman Carousel
Circus World Museum - Baraboo, Wisconsin

As the 2005 CCS tour came to an end, attendees exchanged stories over dinner and made plans for a reunion later in the year.

And in fact the group did get together once again in July to exchange more stories, pictures, and plans for a possible trip next year.  One member even came from New York in order to be part of the reunion, while another non-attendee came from California to hear all about what she had missed.

The Colorado Carousel Society was born in 1983 in the minds of four visionaries who realized that Colorado was home to five (now six) magnificent antique carousels.  They also believed there was enough interest in this area to form an organization that would be dedicated to their preservation, restoration and maintenance, as well as to encourage an appreciation for the history and art of the carousel.

With that in mind, the Colorado Carousel Society is committed to developing a partnership between collectors of carousel carvings and operating carousel supporters here in Colorado.  In fact, one of our members serves as liaison to each of our whirling antiques in order to keep us all informed as to their well-being. Society members enjoy several activities throughout the year.  Highlighted by our annual springtime picnic-in-the-park, held at one of Colorado’s operating carousels, as well as our autumn house tour of members’ private collections.

We also offer our membership a quarterly publication, “the brass ring.”  In the past, the society has provided carousel carvings for display at both the Colorado Historical Museum, and in the lobby of the headquarters of Coors Brewery in Golden.  Most of our members also belong to the National Carousel Association.  Therefore, we also represent a valuable nationwide network of interest, knowledge and expertise.

The CCS would like to invite carousel enthusiasts from around the country to become members of this fine organization.  For a membership form you can visit or write to: Colorado Carousel Society, Attn: Gina Quakenbush, 2341 Garrison Street, Lakewood Colorado 80216-1637
PLEASE NOTE: Individual/Family membership dues are currently $20 dollars, but will increase to $25 in 2006.