With the carousel typically shut down for the season from early December until mid-March, winter was a good time to spruce up the park’s antique carousel, which has become quite popular since it was moved to Frying Pan from Lee District Park in 2011. The carousel, just shy of its century birthday, was built in 1918 and featured hand-carved horses that were replaced after World War II. Since then, the simply named “Historic Carousel’’ has been “loved hard,’’ in the words of Park Manager Yvonne Johnson. Some of its components were replaced or repaired over the winter to make sure that children can continue to enjoy “this little piece of history” for years to come.
While safety checks are performed on the carousel every day and it is inspected every year, wooden components wear out over time and, as last season was ending, the decision was made that winter 2016 was a good time to do the needed work.
The horses themselves don’t look any different than they did a year ago. This project was all about the structure. Workmen didn’t find anything catastrophic, Johnson said, but the renovations turned out to be more extensive than originally planned. For example, Frying Pan was hoping to only replace a couple of pieces of decking, but ended up replacing the entire deck. The canopy also was replaced, due in large measure to damage from the elements. Also replaced was the wooden band that connects the sweeps to each other. The sweeps are like spokes in a wheel and jut outward from the center pole above the horses.
Frying Pan mechanic Eric Sumner said the biggest challenge was just the “enormity” of the project. He likened it to a “giant geometry project’’ with everything being cut at acute angles to make the full circle. The deck pieces also are “really, really heavy.’’ Components had to be taken indoors for servicing. Luckily, the Frying Pan crew got a lot of help from Park Authority carpenter Bobby Smither, who built the new decks, from groundskeeper Ferlin Mathews and his Facility Maintenance crew, and from staff at nearby Lake Fairfax Park. The wood will dry out this summer season, and in the fall staff will stain the deck and paint the sweeps.
The carousel at Frying Pan Farm Park, one of five carousels in Park Authority parks, runs Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
Author Lori K. Weinraub is a volunteer writer for the Park Authority and a former national journalist for The Associated Press.