One striking thing about children on a carousel is seeing the difference in riding style each one adopts. Some cling to the pole their arms wrapped tight as if they were afraid the horse would suddenly leap from the platform and gallop away with them. Some ride with arms held wide in that "I’m king of the world" posture with attitude to match. Yet the choice of mount doesn‘t seem to correlate to riding style. Watching kids make their choice can be as interesting as their ride itself. The Salem Riverfront Carousel has 42 hand-carved horses, a covered wagon and a chuck wagon to choose from. Each horse is very much an individual. Rosinante, Jazz . . . the names are posted above each horse in the rafters supporting the top of the carousel.
This is only the second hand-carved carousel to be constructed in the US since the 1920s. The other is in Missoula, Montana. It was upon riding that in 1995 that a woman named Hazel Patton determined to have one where she lived. Upon seeing a carving demonstration by Dave Walker, she realized her enthusiasm would not be enough to see the project realized. Her enthusiasm would have to spread. As you can tell, she was eventually successful. All horses, and other carved decorations, were "adopted" by local families, which basically means that the funding to pay for each came through donations from the community. Volunteers, taught by Dave, did all the carving. The carousel finally opened to the public June 1, 2001.
Originally the, about 20-minutes of, music was played off paper rolls like a player piano, by the 7-foot-2-inch band organ which weighs in at 700 pounds. Since this method had a limited lifespan (the paper disintegrates with use) these rolls were replaced with MIDI, a far more durable system but a less interesting idea to muse, although the real instruments still play.
This article from the Statesman Journal on the Riverfront Carousel has a complete listing of music played as well as photos and "bios" (under Horse Tales) for each horse and information on carousel.
The gift shop has a large stock of horse and carrousel related items some of which you can purchase online. If you should be here around Christmas you’ll find a variety of unique and charming tree decorations.
The carousel is located in a pavilion in Riverfront Park (my entry)pretty much opposite where State Street ends upon intersecting with Front Street. A Map and directions are available by scrolling down this page.
There’s lots of parking adjacent to the pavilion. At the north end of the park is A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village (journal entry)with its Children‘s Museum and giant erector set.
Open: (Winter) Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm, Fri-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 11am-5pm; (Summer) Mon-Thurs 10am-7pm, Fri-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-6pm. Closed Thanksgiving.
Rides: $1.25. Free rides Christmas Day 12pm-5pm.
Contact: 503-540-0374, (fax) 503-763-0630