In addition to offering rides to kids and adults, organizers plan to use the carousel for educational programs for children, and special events like birthday parties and family reunions. Chris Knight was there for Saturday's opening and filed this report.
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It's 1:30 p.m. on a sunny, clear and picture perfect Saturday afternoon. A huge crowd has filled the pavilion of the Adirondack Carousel, waiting for a moment that's been a dozen years in the making. Finally, the button is pushed, and the Adirondack Carousel, carrying its first group of riders, springs to life.
“I was nervous until I heard the bell ring the first time and I saw it move,” said the Rev. Randy Cross, who has been the project’s manager. “We’d obviously run it before, but you never know. But I think it's great. I think it’s what we envisioned for the grand opening."
The first official ride on the carousel went to the roughly dozen men and women who had spent countless hours hand-carving its two-dozen animals. Rich Craft of Tupper Lake carved the carousel's black fly.
“It’s going to take few weeks for me to fully absorb how wonderful it is,” he said.
It was a day Karen Loffler had dreamed of for years. Loffler first came up with the idea of building a carousel made of Adirondack-themed animals in 2000.
“I haven’t stopped smiling today,” Loffler said. “It’s pretty wonderful. And what a great thing to add to our community.”
The project had plenty of ups and downs over the years. At the height of the recession, donations ebbed, the carousel's paid staff was laid off and the project was shelved.
But a team of volunteers, led by Marge Glowa, brought it through to completion, culminating with Saturday's celebration.
"What you're going to see inside is simply going to take your breath away,” she told the crowd. “It is beyond our wildest expectations, and we are thrilled and delighted."
Speakers like state Sen. Betty Little congratulated the project's organizers. Little admitted she wasn’t sold on the idea when it was first proposed.
“But as this project went along, it was just mind-boggling to see how many people participated, how much enthusiasm there was for it and what a great project it is," Little said.
Before, and long after, the ribbon was cut, dozens of people waited patiently for their chance to ride the carousel.
The rides, which were free all day, drew rave reviews from both kids and adults.
“It was awesome,” a young boy said after stepping off the carousel’s red squirrel. “The squirrel rocks.”
“I recommend the bald eagle; it’s the best,” said his friend.
Lynn Valenti of Plattsburgh led an outing of the Algonquin Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club to the carousel’s opening.
"I love it," she said. "I’m a kid at heart, and I’ve always loved a merry-go-round. I just absolutely love it.”
The carousel will be we open on weekends through June, before expanding its schedule to six days a week in July and August.