The migration of animals is one of the signs of the changing of seasons, and in Story City, there are some unique animals that indicate spring is here. Twenty-six animals have been safely in hibernation all winter but this week were relocated to their fair-weather home at the Story City Antique Carousel.
“In Story City the first sign of spring and warmer weather brings the annual polishing of the brass usually in late April,” said Karen Hermanson, with the carousel board. “The animals are then reassembled on the carousel, the carousel is inspected by the State of Iowa Amusement Division, and it is ready for another season.”
This spring begins the 106th season of the carousel. The carousel passed its inspection this past week, and soon the amusement ride will be open to serve the visitors who will take an estimated 20,000 rides this season.
Story City’s Antique Carousel was built in 1913 in North Tonawondo, N.Y. Each wooden animal was hand-carved by talented artisans, often immigrants to the United States.
For protection from the Iowa winters, the menagerie of animals are removed from the carousel every fall and stored in a special heated chamber inside the carousel building. This procedure has taken place every year since 1982 by a team of carousel maintenance volunteers.
At least twice in the past, local residents have rallied together for the benefit of the carousel. Story City’s purchase of the amusement ride in 1938 was due in large part to the public’s excitement about it.
It was a fair carousel that could be taken apart and transported from place to place. The man who owned it was getting on in years and offered to sell it to Story City for $1,200.
That was a high price in the late-1930s; Story City made a $200 down payment and set up for its first day of carousel business on July 4.
The carousel was open from 7 a.m. until midnight that Fourth of July, and tickets cost 10 cents apiece. In just that one day, more than $900 was raised.
For many years, the carousel was located in downtown Story City, in the area that is now a parking lot. Time and the elements caused damage to the outdoor amusement, however, and it was put into storage in 1976.
In 1980, a group of locals decided to restore the carousel and locate it in a building in North Park. The work took almost two years and cost approximately $140,000.
Opening day for the carousel this year is Friday, May 24, with a Lights On Party from 6 to 8 p.m.
Daily hours begin Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and run through Aug. 15: Sunday to Wednesday, noon to 6 p.m., and Thursday to Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.