Locals try to bring carousel full circle

First Posted: 5/3/2008

ANDREW M. SEDER

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The owners of a historic merry-go-round have rejected an offer on the former Hanson’s Amusement Park icon. That announcement gives a local group hope the ride will be back in Northeast Pennsylvania next year for its 100th birthday.

The 1909 Coney-Island-style Looff-Mangels carousel has been in the Wintersteen family for more than 90 years, but earlier this year, Mary Ann Wintersteen of Harveys Lake decided to put the 45-foot carousel, currently in Auburndale, Fla., up for auction. When some local carousel enthusiasts and historians heard about the decision, they banded together to try to bring home the carousel.
The Wintersteen “Menagerie Machine,” as it’s called, has 44 animals hand-carved by Harry Goldstein, Charles Looff, Solomon Stein and Charles Carmel. The animals include giraffes, camels, goats and a zebra. It is believed by experts at Carousel News and Trader magazine to be one of only three intact carousels of its kind left in the world.
The auction was held April 23 in Auburndale, but Wintersteen rejected the higher of two bids that were made. One bidder was from California, the other from Connecticut. Though the bid’s total is unknown, David A. Norton, chairman and CEO of the company that conducted the auction, said it was less than $660,000, the previous record for a classic carousel up for auction.
“Quite honestly, it’s just not that good a carousel,” Norton said Friday from his Coldwater, Mich., office.
The rejection of the bid signaled to locals trying to bring back the carousel that they were being given another chance.
On Friday, one of the group’s members, Elizabeth Martin of Dallas Township, said she has “no doubt it’s coming home.” She said she has spoken to Wintersteen and believes the group and the carousel owner are on the same page.
“We’re going to meet with Mrs. Wintersteen very shortly,” Martin said.
She said details of where the carousel will be displayed and a plan to pay Wintersteen, whether in payments or in a large sum, will be worked out.
“Whatever it takes, we’re going to work with her, and she’s indicated she’ll work with us,” Martin said.
The carousel has been in Florida since 1987, where it’s been leased first to Old Town, in Kissimmee, then to International Market World in Auburndale.
The Brass Ring Fund was organized locally in hopes of raising enough money to buy the carousel and bring it north. Though the group hasn’t purchased the carousel, it appears the carousel will be “coming home,” Martin said. Additional funds will be needed to secure and shelter the carousel. The group is hoping to find a suitable location to provide public access for the ride that entertained hundreds of thousands of people at Hanson’s Amusement Park in Harveys Lake and in Kissimmee and Auburndale.
Among those who enjoyed the carousel was Martin, who rode the attraction as a child summering at her grandparents’ cottage at Harveys Lake.
She saw the carousel April 23 during a trip to Florida, when the failed auction took place, and said a lot of memories came rushing back.
“It was so exciting to see that carousel for the first time since 1984,” Martin, a freelance writer, said.
A meeting with Wintersteen in March was even more exciting. The carousel owner gave Martin one of the original brass rings that riders would try to grab during each running of the carousel. The rider who grabbed a ring would get a free ride.
“I had quite a few free rides,” she recalled. She said the ring, which “seemed so big when you’re a kid,” is just 4 inches in diameter and has been her good luck charm which she carries daily.
The Wintersteens did not put the carousel’s Wurlitzer band organ and brass ring machine up for auction, but Martin said the owners will give a “forever lease” on those items to the Brass Ring Fund if the group is able to purchase the ride.
A message left with Mary Ann Wintersteen was not immediately returned on Friday.

Andrew M. Seder, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 570-829-7269.