The carousel at the NYS Museum

NYS Museum Carousel.jpg

Say hi to Ann when you visit.

By Dawn Padfield

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.

calliope.jpg

carousel pony.jpg

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.

No tails.jpg

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.

Find It

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.

Comments

Great post Dawn! I love this carousel. I go with my toddler at least once a week in the summer, for the A/C, horses, escalator, and to visit the Elmos in the Museum store. Ah the wonderful world at age two!

I guess it;s time for me to take my almost-3-y-o to check it out. We always get so caught up in the rest ofthe museum that by the time i think of the carousel, it's time to get home for nap. Thanks for the tip!

Thanks for the tip. Always looking for something fun to do especially with a little one (5 months) and 3 yr. old. Have to remember to bring the camera along for the first ride and to have a first ride certificate is great!

Can you tell me the year this carousel was installed in the NY State Museum? Bought in 1975 and found organ in 2000, but when did it begin operation here. I need this info for a book I'm writing. Thanks so much. J.

The Carousel was installed and opened to the public November 2001

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