What's the most fascinating exhibit at the New York State Museum?
The giant woolly mastodon? The Iroquois longhouse? The set of Sesame Street?
Ask my kids and they'll tell you it's the merry-go-round on the fourth floor. Ask me-- or other adults that have seen it-- and you might actually get the same answer.
The carousel (a Herschell-Spillman, for you aficionados out there) was constructed in 1914 and traveled around from carnival to carnival before it was purchased by the State Museum in 1975. It consists of thirty-six carved horses, two donkeys, two deer (with REAL antlers), a Neptune Chariot, Rocking Chariot, and a spinning "Love Tub" (not to be confused with a Love Shack). The calliope, or Wurlitzer Band Organ, is the original and still works, however, since it was originally meant to played outdoors it is too loud for the enclosed space. Instead, a carousel music (greatest hits?) CD is played. I know, it kind of messes with the illusion, but I guess better that than permanent hearing damage.
The eyes of all the horses are German marbles and all the tails are made of authentic horse hair. You will find, however, that many of the horses are missing their tails, a fact that children love to point out when they see the vacant holes on the horses backside (insert potty humor here). Apparently they still have all of those tails in storage -- but children kept pulling them out so they are waiting to be repaired.
If you have been to the carousel before, you have probably seen Ann Winnicki. Ann is not the only carousel operator, but she is the primary one and has been for the past eight years. She is there every Tuesday through Saturday explaining the rules of the merry go round and ringing the starting bell. This is a woman who loves her job. She can tell you sweet stories of older couples riding together, holding hands, to previously pregnant mothers bringing their newborns back for their first carousel ride. She even makes little certificates proclaiming 'Baby's 1st Carousel ride' for their scrapbooks (that is, if you have ever gotten around to making a scrapbook).
Last year 129,000 people rode this old carousel-- and it was closed from May to February that year for repairs. Because of the heavy traffic they're now running the carousel every 15 minutes instead of continuously.
The Carousel is free but donations are accepted. When children ask how much it costs Ann says, "it just costs a smile.' Aww. They don't make them like they used to.
Dawn is the author of Small-bany, a great blog about stuff to do for kids and parents.
The Carousel at the NY State Museum (4th Floor)
222 Madison Avenue
Albany , NY 12230
Open daily from 10:00am-4:30 pm
Runs every 15 minutes.
We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.