Hello. My name is Dennis, and I am the owner of this site. It is my intent to provide you with as much information about the world of carousels as I possibly can.
For the last several years I have been obsessed with “chasing merry-go rounds.” In fact, I am so head over heels with them that I have traveled over 30,000 miles across our fifty states, taken thousands of pictures, and shot hours and hours of video on hundreds of carousels. All this, in an effort to capture the allure these works of art have on us all.
Right about now you are probably asking the same question I'm asked by so many others:
After seeing merry-go round after merry-go round, don't they all begin to look alike?
The answer is definitely no! In fact, its the uniqueness and variety of these subjects that prompted me to create this site in the first place. Here you will find much more than just antique wooden carousels.
But before we move on to all that, I would like to answer the second question I am asked so often in my travels:
What prompted you to get involved with this subject to start with?
Actually, it all began in the fall of 1988 when I was working on my undergraduate degree and taking a Humanities class. I was assigned a project that required me to write two papers. The first report was to be a research paper on the subject of our choosing and the other an essay about how we came to pick that particular subject.
My essay paper went a little like
One of Colorado's
Greatest Art Treasure's
When it comes to involving myself in the arts, it seems I have always found the time to enjoy a wide variety of music, drama, and film. I also have a real appreciation for sculptures and paintings, but never seem to find time to pursue that particular interest. So when it came time to pick an event and topic for my Art and Humanities papers I took advantage of the situation by visiting the Denver Art Museum. This gave me a very good idea of subjects the Art Museum had to offer, as well as the opportunity to go back and see the areas I enjoyed most.
After the tour was over I returned to the European and Contemporary Art exhibits, as I found them both fascinating. Although I enjoyed looking over these works of art I felt no real motivation to write a paper on either topic. Thus, I left the museum having had a great experience, but with no theme for my Humanities paper. Ironically, it would be only a few hours later, when I would come upon the perfect event and topic for my papers.
Soon after leaving the Art Museum I had a short visit with some of my relatives who had just returned from a weekend trip to Eastern Colorado. During their visit they took a ride a on the recently restored Kit Carson County Carousel. Along with stories of the weekend's events they also brought back brochures on each place they visited. As I listened to their excitement of the trip I began looking over each of the brochures. This lead me to a compelling story about the Kit Carson County Carousel and the perfect topic for my paper. As for the event I was to attend and report on -- that would be another story.
My relatives informed me that the Carousel was closed for the season and would not reopen until Spring 1989. I couldn't believe it. I finally found the ideal subject for my paper, but with no corresponding event to attend. Nonetheless, I read further into the brochure, where I noticed it confirmed what they had told me. However, it also stated: "Private tours are available by writing to the Kit Carson County Carousel Association." Needless to say, I contacted them immediately.
A phone call to the Association put me in touch with Jo Downey, the person in charge of the Carousel. Jo not only graciously set up a time for me to see the Carousel, but also offered to send me all the information she could on the subject of carousel art. She also recommended that I locate the book Painted Ponies at the library, as it would probably be my best source of information.
I took Jo's advice and began searching for the book at the library, but had no success as every copy in Colorado was checked out. Nevertheless, I was able to purchase it through a local bookstore. Within a few days I also received the information Jo had promised. Included were, numerous magazines, brochures, a bibliography on carousel art, and post cards of the Kit Carson County Carousel.
After looking over all the books and magazines I had acquired, I became quite intrigued with the subject of carousel art and my anticipation of seeing the Carousel in Burlington grew into an obsession.
It was Saturday, September 24th -- the day I had scheduled to see the Kit Carson County Carousel, had finally arrived. After having spent the last two weeks reading about the Carousel and others like it, I was about to see this marvelous piece of art work first hand. Needless to say I was more than filled with enthusiasm.
Just getting to Burlington to see the Carousel was a great experience in its self. It was a bright sunny day and the drive was just right for dreaming of how the Carousel might look in real life. I also had time to visit the Tarado Mansion in Arriba, Colorado and Olde Town in Burlington as my appointment to see the Carousel wasn't until later that afternoon, . Both of these attractions added even more enjoyment and fascination to my trip.
As I arrived at the Burlington Fairgrounds I could see the twelve sided building that housed the Carousel. I noticed as I approached one side was already open. There, inside the dark building I could catch just a glimpse of one of the Carousel figures. As I moved closer I saw a woman diligently dusting off the figure. I immediately realized, she was Jo Downey -- the person I had spoken to previously about the Carousel.
After introducing myself and explaining why I was there, she proceeded to take me on a tour of the Carousel, stopping at each piece and explaining something about it. I was quite amazed at how much history Jo knew when it came to the Carousel. She was able to answer all my questions about it, as well as, provide me with information on carousels in general.
As I proceeded to tour the Carousel
by myself I could see that its history was only one of its many attributes.
Its beauty was equally stimulating -- beauty that showed through in each
and every hand carved piece. As I moved from animal to animal I was amazed
at the intricacy involved in each one. Although I tried to capture this
elegance and complexity with my camera, I knew the photos would never be
a substitute for the feeling I had at that moment. They would, however,
be a reminder of how much this magnificent piece of art work had to offer.
Realizing the beauty and charm it provided as a work of art -- made me wonder why the County allowed the Carousel to be ridden. Ironically enough Jo answered my question just as it entered my head. She answered not with a comment, but with an invitation to go for a ride.
As I boarded my favorite figure; the hippocampus (sea horse), I literally felt like a kid again. Then as the music began to play and the Carousel began to move, a very strange feeling came over me -- a feeling of nostalgia like I had never felt before. I was soon moving around and around, faster and faster, while the music grew louder. It was as if I were entering a new dimension in time. I began to feel hypnotized as I stared at the wonderful paintings in the center of the Carousel. I was soon dreaming of my youth and how much I had enjoyed riding the current Elitch Garden Carousel with my brother, while my parents stood by and waved as we passed.
Before I knew it, the Carousel had
stopped and the ride was over. As I stepped down from the hippocampus figure
I realized -- my question had been answered. I then knew exactly why they
offered the public a chance to hop aboard this wonderful art treasure.
For seeing it and of hearing of its history, or even touching it, could
not compare with going for a ride on the Kit Carson County Carousel.
So ... that's how my fascination (or should I say obsession) for carousel art and merry-go rounds began -- some 15 years ago.