By Wendy and Mike Pramik
Posted On: Jul 25, 2021
Time stands still aboard the spinning carrousel at the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky. The Wurlitzer band organ bangs out a tune near the center pole. Cranking rods lift and lower carved animals, whereupon I find myself riding a brown-and-white dog whose nametag reads "Eddie."
I'm happy that these magnificent machines and figures aren't stored away or simply on display, but are still providing the thrill of the ride to the young and the young at heart.
"It's a throwback to your youth and the simplicity of childhood," says Bonnie Behm of the Merry-Go-Round Museum.
Thanks to carousel enthusiasts and artists who continue the tradition of hand-carving and painting, the National Carousel Association's website (carousels.org) lists 23 of the roundabouts still spinning in Ohio.
It's an impressive list in Ohio, primarily historical pieces," Behm says. "We're blessed with so many machines that are well taken care of and still in operation."
Ohio also is home to Carousel Works in Mansfield, the world's largest manufacturer of hand-carved wooden carousels.
Carousels originally were rides for adults – they went fast, the animals moved up and down, and kids weren't allowed on them, Behm told me, as we toured the museum. Then, kids' carousels were made, moving slowly with stationary animals. Later, these two types melded into what most of us know today: rides with slow, steady speeds and some animals that move.
"Most carousels today go two to three miles per hour," Behm said. "We go nine, which is the original speed of the machine. It's a totally different ride."
The Merry-Go-Round Museum opened in 1990 inside the former Sandusky Post Office. The round building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is the perfect shape for a carousel.
The museum's Allan Herschell machine was built in 1939 in North Tonawanda, New York. It originally was a traveling machine, mainly stopping in Illinois and Indiana. It arrived to the museum 1991 without any animals. Its frame and scenery panels were refurbished, and a new platform was added, along with 21 animals. A dozen were created between 1900 and 1930, and onsite carvers crafted the other nine.
Each carved figure is unique. There are horses, sea monsters, a zebra, pig, dog, donkey, ostrich and a frog. A little rabbit made in 1909 belongs to a French carrousel, which is housed at the museum.
Every carousel has a lead animal. The one here is a white horse named Stargazer. Constructed around 1915, it's adorned in red, white and blue, with its nose fixed upward as if the horse is staring at the stars.
Visitors also will see an assortment of artifacts and a woodcarving shop, where antique figures are restored. There's also a gift shop.
Here are some other old and new carousels around Ohio:
Carol Ann's Carousel in Cincinnati
Built in 2015 by Carousel Works, this recent roundabout contains 44 Cincinnati-centric figures, including a Bengal tiger, ladybug, flying pig and a praying mantis. It's located in a glass-enclosed building in Smale Riverfront Park on the shores of the Ohio River.
Carousel of Dayton Innovation at Carillon Historical Park in Dayton
Cedar Downs Racing Derby at Cedar Point in Sandusky
Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel at Cleveland History Center in Cleveland
Kimberly's Carousel in Put-in-Bay
This 1917-built Allan Herschell ride includes a stable of original horses and a few new additions, such as a chicken, pig and "Petey the Perch."
Mangels-Illions Grand Carousel at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell
Originally located in Olentangy Park, this 1914-built classic carousel underwent a million-dollar restoration before moving to the Columbus Zoo. Manufactured by the William F. Mangels Company, it includes 52 horses, two chariots and a Wurlitzer 153-band organ.
Richland Carrousel Park in Mansfield
Built in 1991 by Carrousel Works, this centerpiece of downtown Mansfield has 52 figures including horses, bears, rabbits, a lion, zebra, goat and a mythical hippocampus. The enclosed carousel is open year-round.
Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia
This 1928 Herschell-Spillman features 36 hand-carved, jumping horses, two chariots, original oil paintings and a Wurlitzer 153-band organ. The park also has a vintage Ferris wheel, a train and a mini rollercoaster.