Cleveland's Carousel Comes Back Home

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For many Cleveland families, the Euclid Beach Park carousel was a particular touchstone at this popular recreation spot. On the carousel’s 100th anniversary in 2010, antiques expert Terry Kovel said that there were once 4000 such rides in the country. Today, there are only 150 --- and Euclid Beach’s was special.

TERRY KOVEL: You can’t talk to anybody who lived in Cleveland before 1960 who hasn’t been to Euclid Beach. Every Sunday school, every church --- everybody had a meeting over there.

When the park closed in 1969, the various rides and attractions were either bulldozed or sold. John Frato is president of Euclid Beach Park Now --- a group of enthusiasts devoted to keeping memories of the Euclid Beach alive. He says the carousel was disassembled and shipped off soon after the park’s demise.

JOHN FRATO: When it left Cleveland, it went through a ride broker in Pennsylvania, and then was immediately sold a small amusement park called Old Orchard Beach outside of Portland Maine and operated there until 1996, when that park ran into financial difficulty and then was brought back to Cleveland for auction.

His organization kept track of the carousel through several sets of owners, and helped negotiate the details for its new home at the Historical Society.

SOUND: drills and such

Last weekend, workers from the restoration company Carousel Works in Mansfield Ohio reassembled the locally legendary ride in preparation for its public debut at the museum, this weekend. Dan Jones supervised the effort to rehab this 1910-vintage machine. Since co-founding the company in 1986, Jones and his partner have restored about 13 carousels across the country and built 50 new ones.

DAN JONES: This particular carousel here --- over the years as it got moved around --- people would change it, add things, take away things, just to make it look different.

And Jones’s company made its contribution to this evolving story with a number of illustrated panels that reflect the history of both Cleveland and the carousel. The refurbished ride also has carriages that are specially designed for riders in wheelchairs. Euclid Beach Park Now’s John Frato says he’s especially happy with the upgrade of the band organ which provides the classic carousel music.

JOHN FRATO: Normally a band organ will work off of paper rolls. What we’ve added to this organ now is called a MIDI system, so what the ride operator will be able to do is go to a computer program and change the songs without having to change the rolls.

A few clicks on a 21st century computer screen activates the mechanics of a hundred-year-old musical instrument.

Like many with a long history in Northeast Ohio, John Frato is in the third generation of his family to spend summers at Euclid Beach Park. He smiles at this familiar sound.

JOHN FRATO: It takes me right back to the park.

The carousel sparks a different memory for restoration expert Dan Jones. When the ride came into his Mansfield shop, he recognized it as the one he and his wife rode as newlyweds when it was at Old Orchard Beach Park in Maine.

DAN JONES: When I heard about it, and where it came from, I knew exactly what it was.

This Sunday will be the start of a new generation of memories, as this colorful combination of carved creatures, painted panels, lights, mirrors and old music returns to the city where it first started turning, over a century ago.

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