Photo First: The Albany Carousel

In the Willamette Valley, a small city gets a new central attraction and a thing of beauty to keep nostalgic visitors going round and round

ALBANY — Every small town wants something to put it on the map. Now, after fifteen years of hard work, Albany has that something—a remarkable new carousel.

This project, which is called the Albany Carousel over its entrance and is officially named the Historic Carousel & Museum, is the brainchild of Wendy Kirby. She has shepherded it from inspiration to installation in a perfectly designed new building at the center of the city. It is destined to be exactly what it was hoped it would be—the anchor of a downtown revitalization.

The carousel is built on a 1909 mechanical base that was donated to the project by the Dentzel family (famous in the carousel world) and was meticulously restored over a period of ten years. It is populated by a menagerie of stunning animals, both real and imagined—horses, of course, but also lions, tigers, elephants, hippocampus, and dragons. Each has been hand-carved and hand-painted by local volunteers.

In addition to the carousel the building houses a gift shop, various meeting spaces, and a café, but it is downstairs in the carving studio where the visitor is offered a unique experience, a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of these fantasies—a chance to gain insight into the processes whereby a tree trunk becomes a unicorn. A single figure takes about 1,500 hours to carve and another 700 hours to paint. There are thirty animals on the carousel at the moment, with room for twenty-some more.

Peter Daulton, a special-effects artist with Industrial Light & Magic (think Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc., etc.) has completed a documentary about the project, Ride, that has been airing on PBS stations across the country.

For the cost of a token ($2) you can revisit your childhood.

 

 

 

 

 

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