Faron Wahl, Manager.
I always seek to utilize this column principally for things ahead, anticipating and expounding on exciting events and activities we’re bringing your way. Reporting on what’s already past, while seemingly significant, tends to easily become a dry read right from the get-go. But there are exceptions.
The exception of our entire season happened this past weekend, and there’s so much to tell – plus so many great stories of dedication and the thanks necessarily to follow – that I simply must recap what occurred. To speak of our carousel’s return as amazing is a flat-out understatement.
We welcomed a healthy crowd here Saturday, with no gate or ride fees charged, as a come-one come-all opportunity to share the excitement of this cornerstone’s return with everyone who wanted to celebrate with us. And come they did.
It was a touch hot outside, but just enough breeze drifted through the nook east of our gift shop to keep most shirts decently dried off. The anticipation that’s been building during the nearly 22 months since our carousel left for its Ohio restoration kicked in fully as folks assembled prior to 2:00 pm. By the time our program was rolling, there was a palpable sense of hungry urgency winding through the crowd.
I tried to thank and pay tribute to the scores of individuals and groups who have played a role in this restoration, and somehow squeeze it all, along with some key history and updates, into a program no longer than one hour. At 3:00 sharp, everyone moved forward for the official ribbon cutting sponsored by our Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. It was a fun moment. And then the day hit peak.
Having been asked for nearly two years who would get to be on the first ride of the freshly-restored carousel, I have spent perhaps an inordinate amount of time considering how best to handle this key moment. I decided on a representative ride, one in which several folks were asked to board the carousel in honor of a host of others who have served in similar fashion.
We had a couple representing village volunteers, and two more specifically standing in for all carousel volunteers. The Ladies Auxiliary was represented, as were past managers and staff, past and present royalty, the local Questers group who got this ball rolling for us, etc. No one was riding for themselves, but rather each was symbolizing multiple others who have invested in similar ways. A bouquet wreath was hung over the necks of eight horses representing the founders who incorporated this place back in ’66.
As the carousel started to turn the witnessing crowd cheered, and many dry eyes found their way to a condition more moist. The general fanfare and good will was not unlike the unfettered joy witnessed at local fairs 100 years ago, when rides like ours brought a fresh new wave of public merriment and recreation.
From there, it was cake, punch, laughter, old photos displayed on an easel, and new photos captured by dozens of smart phones. But the center of it all was ride after ride after ride on the carousel, delivering pure joy signaled by smiles that wouldn’t wipe off and recurring squeals of delight.
All of this was capped with the legitimate touch of our carousel being powered by steam, just as it was one hundred-plus years ago on its first day of use. This was the intended spirit of the entire day. My sincere hope is that the event brought honor to the legacy of this carousel, and to those who have staunchly helped carry it to this incredible point.
And now we’ve set off on a renewed generation of history brought to life – extending the timeline of this beautiful carousel’s form and function beyond what any of us can currently see. It’s not a happy ending, it’s a new happy beginning.