Whatever happened to …

… carousels?

Thanks to Sheila Stewart for the idea for this post.  She also included a news story to give some context for her suggestion.

Chippewa carousel campaign wants you to ‘adopt a horse’

Of course, that got me thinking…

As a child, the fair was an annual spring event.  While it was on a Friday night, Saturday and a Sunday, we would anxiously bike over to the park the week before to watch the people set up.  It wasn’t a quick and easy job.

But then it would open and there were a lot of favourites.  The Dare Devils, the people guessing your weight and age, the cheap toys, the high striker game where it took the strongest to ring the bell, the midway rides and right in the centre, the carousel.

carousel

Photo Credit: isabelrc1 Flickr via Compfight cc

It was a combination of colour, music, horses, unicorns, motorcycles, and for some of the elderly, a bench that was on the platform as it spun around.  Very slowly.  It was the ride when we were young but we quickly graduated to the Zipper!  That had much more action than the up and down and around motion of the horses.

In a small town, it was one weekend and that was it.  I guess in the big scheme of things the rides were pretty tame because they had to be quickly and easily set up and torn down to move to another town.  But, for us, it was a pretty big deal.  Later on in the summer, we would make the trip to London and enjoy the Western Fair.  Same concept but much bigger.  Of course, there was a carousel there too.

When we moved to Essex County, we didn’t know it, but there was a huge permanent attraction on Boblo Island.  Because this park was a permanent place, the carousel was big and, as noted in the article, one of the signature attractions.  Access was a quick boat ride from the dock in Amherstburg or a much longer ride on a much bigger boat from Detroit.  The dock is still there but in sad shape.

Every ride was well used and lineups were everywhere.  There were some pretty good rides and you could easily spend a full day there and not hit them all.  And, of course, the carousel was a place where we could take our young kids and they’d really enjoy it.

Sadly, it ended up closing.  There were some real drawbacks – the town lost a major employer for high school students, tourism had to turn to other interests, and now Cedar Point in Ohio became the place to go.  For those that really appreciate the local flavour of a fair, there’s the Harrow Fall Fair.  No matter where you go, the centre piece is always the carousel.

I hope that the Thunder Bay project succeeds.  Boblo Island is now a community when people travel across the river via ferry.  Some pictures are enjoyable here.

What are your thoughts for a Sunday morning?

  • Do you have a favourite fair or amusement park that you visit or visited in the past?
  • Do you call these carousels or merry-go-rounds?
  • Do you or did you have a favourite horse to ride?
  • Which spring/fall fair or amusement park is part of your regular routine?
  • Have you ever been to the carousel that Sheila makes reference to?
  • How about to Boblo Island?

Please share your thoughts via comment below.  Sheila and I would love to hear your story.

This post is part of a regular Sunday series “Whatever happened to …”.  You can visit all the topics discussed here.

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3 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Ooo … I love carousels! It’s strange as I easily get motion sick and hate going around in circles, except for on a carousel. I could spend hours going up and down on those horses. There’s something so calming about the movement. I still remember the last carousel I went on. It was the first time that my sister and I went out with my grandparents (my step-dad’s parents) alone. (We’d just met them a few days before.) We were in Grade 8, and had a wonderful time on the carousel and enjoying ice cream down by the water. Memories are special things. Thanks for reminding me of this, Doug! I’d love to hear other people’s carousel stories!

    Aviva

  2. There used to be a big one outside of Storybook Gardens in Springbank park in London. It’s gone too. I liked Boblo, I was sad to hear it closed, but it had to be hard to compete with Cedar Point and Canada’s Wonderland.

  3. Thank you for going with my suggestion and writing about this topic, Doug! I enjoyed reading and learning about the history of Boblo Island. Very interesting!

    My children have been on the Chippewa Park carousel a few times. I wondered about the one at Storybook Gardens too. I saw it in operation there about 30 years ago!

    Here is some more interesting history I learned from following our local initiative to save the carousel:

    (from this article: https://www.tbnewswatch.com/local-news/condition-of-carousel-horses-more-severe-than-originally-believed-839060 )

    “The carousel, which was built between 1918 and 1920, was acquired by the former town of Fort William in 1934 when a travelling carnival that had been in the community went bankrupt. Thunder Bay city council designated the carousel as a heritage property in 1991.”

    And this I didn’t know before,

    “The merry-go-round is one of only three C.W. Parker original carousels still operational in North America.”

    It would be hard to imagine a fair without a carousel/merry-go-round, or the associated “music”. In my childhood, I loved getting on one of the horses… it had to be a horse! I suspect I might get a dizzy if I went on one now!

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