Have you met anyone who didn’t like a merry-go-round? I haven’t. A truly unique example is the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland Colorado. Its roots are in a carousel built by Danish woodcarver Charles I.D. Looff, who built the first carousel for Coney Island. Looff went on to construct carousels for parks across the nation, and in 1910 delivered a carousel to Saltair Park, near Salt Lake City. That carousel was severely damaged in a windstorm when the roller coaster collapsed and fell on it. It suffered a few other indignities as well, like lightening strikes and fires. It was always repaired and running again until the park finally when bankrupt and closed. The carousel was put into service at the Utah State Training School until 1986 when a private buyer, interested only in the wooden animals, bought the carousel leaving the wooden frame and mechanism behind to be junked. Enter Scott Harrison, whose interest in carousels had grown since his days as a Marine during the Vietnam War. Attending a National Carousel Association convention with his daughter, Scott met the truck driver hired to transport the animals and learned he could salvage the frame, mechanism and virtually all the other parts of the carousel. He bought everything and had it moved 500 miles to Nederland, Colorado. He put the parts in storage and then went about hand carving new, non-traditional creatures for the carousel. By 2005, he carved the last animal. Over 26 years he produced 50 animals, 35 of which could be ridden. Over the next few years he acquired a site, raised funds to construct the eco-friendly pavilion for the carousel. Finally, in 2010 the levers were pulled and the first riders climbed onto the animals.
Along with the carving of all the animals, the mechanisms, including original bearings, gears, frame and metal work have been restored. Scott’s design flourishes lend a wondrous whimsy to the carousel, making it a visual delight, unlike any I had seen before. I have to applaud Scott’s craftsmanship, creativity and dedication that pulled this all together … starting with only the frame.
I spent a couple of hours in two visits to the Carousel of Happiness. I think seniors outnumbered the children by at least 2:1. My theory is that riding this carousel transports them, for a few moments, back to childhood and simpler, happier times.