- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. (AP) — It took nearly eight months, 14-hour days, dozens of cans of brightly colored paint and workers from coast to coast to take on one of the biggest jobs at a historic landmark in western Pennsylvania.

For the first time in its history, the 1926 wooden carousel at Kennywood amusement park was painstakingly disassembled this winter and cleaned. Each piece was repaired, painted and reassembled in time for yesterday’s opening to the public.

That’s 64 horses, a lion, a tiger, four chariots and dozens of jesters and flowers — all intricately carved of wood and painted in detail, in many cases with small artist’s brushes. The carousel is suspended above the ground and everything is anchored to a large piece of yellow pine jutting up from the center of the ride.

The carousel is one of only 142 wooden carved carousels built from 1885 to 1930 that is still in operation today, according to the National Carousel Association. It’s seen by the million-plus visitors each year to the amusement park, located just outside Pittsburgh.

Kennywood, founded in 1898, bought the carousel in 1926 for $25,000. It had originally been made by William Dentzel, well-known carousel craftsman, for Philadelphia’s celebration of the nation’s sesquicentennial.

Some parts of the carousel had been repainted before — the horses were done in 1998. But the entire thing had never been taken apart and no one knew how easily it would go back together.

“We’ve never actually taken the motors and the gears off. But at this age, it needed to be done,” park spokeswoman Mary Lou Rosemeyer said.

Some of the carousel’s parts were shipped to California for repairs. Others, such as the Wurlitzer band organ, were left in place and serviced on site.

The blue seats of the chariots were reupholstered and a new electronic system was installed so the ride starts at the touch of button and then times out on its own. In the past, an old drum system required the operator to turn a handle to accelerate the ride, then slowly pull a lever to bring it to a stop.

Gavin McDonough has been coming to Kennywood for 30 years to service the organ, which has four large paper rolls that play 10 songs on each. Parts for the piano, which dates to the 1930s, aren’t made anymore so Mr. McDonough must make any replacement parts he needs at his shop in Richmond.

“There’s never been a replacement for these carousel organs,” Mr. McDonough said. “This is the real thing.”

Much of the work on the carousel happened in a cinder-block garage just outside Kennywood’s gates. With compact discs or Disney movies playing in the background, park employees Jen Tomasik and Lisa Thomas spent hours repainting the carousel’s parts in colors closely matched to the originals. They were finishing up the last of the painting Tuesday.

“It’s very exciting because I can’t wait to see it all done,” Miss Thomas said.

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