The horses, pigs, dogs and roosters may be resting for the winter, but there’s still activity going on for the Story City Antique Carousel.
Members of the non-profit organization that runs the carousel, which turns 105 years old this year, have been working on a Carousel Memorial Bench Program.
They’ve been signing up sponsors for park benches to install at the carousel — concrete benches for the exterior and wooden ones for inside.
The program has been so successful, the Carousel Committee already has all the exterior benches it needs, but it’s still looking for donations for the interior benches, which cost about $900 each.
Both styles of benches are built to last for decades, so they would make a fitting memorial, a nice commemoration of a special milestone, a lovely gift or a unique way of honoring someone deserving of recognition, said Jay Wilson, director of the Story City Greater Chamber Connection, which oversees the carousel.
Many new benches are already at home inside and outside the carousel building.
“As soon as we’ve been getting the money, we’ve been ordering the benches and placing them at the carousel,” Wilson said.
New picnic tables, which will be placed on the carousel’s landing, are the latest item that people can sponsor or donate toward.
“The picnic tables will be round and will be made of concrete, like the exterior benches, so they can withstand the weather conditions,” Wilson said. “They will be a great addition to the new landing that we got last year during the renovations to North Park. We used that area so much last year.”
The picnic tables will cost between $900 and $1,000 each; donations for a portion of the cost of a table or bench are welcome, Wilson said, or an entire item can be donated, which would enable the donors to have a plaque placed on it.
Another alternative to make your mark and contribute to the carousel is its ongoing Brick Garden project. For $50, a brick with your choice of text can be added to the brick area at the site.
“People can choose whatever they want to put on the brick,” Wilson said. “Some people do it in memory of someone. Sometimes it’s a group, like the Class of 1950s reunion.”
Wilson said people in the community have been generous to the antique carousel. For example, when Giving Tuesday occurred just after Thanksgiving, the committee posted a note to Facebook about its renovation project for the carousel building, people were generous and quick to respond with donations.
“We raised more than $4,000 just from that, and we still have people bringing in checks and sending in donations,” Wilson said. “We’d never done that before, but we thought we’d try it, and there were great responses from our community.”
The renovation will include new siding and a new door on the south side, which will improve traffic flow for visitors and will create better ventilation.
It takes a village to keep the century-old amusement ride running. Story City residents and people from the surrounding area donate money, time and energy to the beloved carousel.
The carousel is operated mostly by volunteers, who run the actual ride, make popcorn and sell tickets. Volunteers polish the brass, they keep the machinery greased and maintained, they the install the carousel animals each spring and take them off each winter for safe keeping.
It’s a labor of love for those who keep it running and for the 15,000 or so riders it has each year.
“The community loves the carousel,” Wilson said. “I love the carousel, and I didn’t even grow up here. It’s 105 years old, and it’s still running like crazy.”