The Carowinds carousel is a living piece of amusement park history. Built in 1923 during America’s “carousel golden age” by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (#67 of 87 ever made), it features 68 hand-carved wooden horses and chariots crafted by master carver John Zalar. At the ripe age of 95, the carousel is the oldest ride in the park. And if these horses could talk…they’d probably just talk in circles. #DadJoke
The Carousel’s New Home & Name
As we prepare for an exciting 2018 season with our Camp Snoopy expansion, the carousel will be moving across the park where it will serve as the centerpiece of the renovated plaza outside of Vortex. As a result, the plaza will be renamed Carousel Park and the carousel will return to its original name, The Grand Carousel. The ride’s new location will transform its surrounding area, and its massive new station will highlight the handcrafted treasure’s beauty.
Preserving the Handcrafted Treasure
In addition to the move, The Grand Carousel will be receiving some TLC to preserve its classic charm. The original flooring is made up of 18 pieces and each will be restored and refinished. This is no small task considering the age and shape of the wood.
As part of the ride’s ongoing maintenance, Carowinds will also be repainting 10 horses. It takes two-three weeks to complete each piece, which means it will take the remainder of the offseason to ready the horses.
Todd Dawkins is the man challenged with the task of painting the horses. He’s been doing it for about 10 years now, and his precision and attention to detail is truly something to admire. With a small paintbrush in hand, he brings the handcrafted wood to life.
Each horse is stripped down and primed three times before receiving paint. He then considers color options that will fit the horse and highlight its characteristics. A base coat is then applied. Once dried, Dawkins begins on the decorations and details – the longest part of the process. When complete, the painted horse is covered with a clear coat to protect his work.
Dawkins is currently working on three different horses, each in different stages of completion.
“It’s important to us to be good stewards of this ride,” said Steve Jackson, director of maintenance. “There aren’t too many of these left, and they’re part of history.”
When you visit The Grand Carousel in its new location, take a moment to admire the craftsmanship of the ride. It truly is a historic, handcrafted treasure.