The Painted Ponies. The Merry-Go-Round. The Roundabout. All names for the carousel, that magic machine full of brightly colored wooden animals, mirrors, lights, and carnival music usually provided by a Wurlitzer band organ.
The Carousel is open March through December, weather permitting. It runs during Village hours. The cost is $2.00 per person of any age.
The word carousel comes from the Italian word carosello (meaning “little war”). Carosello was a 12th-century game played by the Arabs and Turks, on horseback, using scented balls tossed from one to another. Anyone missing a catch was readily identified by the perfume they were doused with when the scented ball broke on impact.
Carosello was adopted by the French into an exhibition (now called carousel) of many types of horsemanship pageantry and competition, including spearing a ring suspended from a post or tree, while riding at full speed. A practice machine was created to help young knights prepare for this competition – a series of legless wooden horses attached to a rotating platform (driven by human-power or horse-power). When this practice machine proved to be as popular with women and children as it was with the young knights, the carousel was born.
The carousel gained even more popularity when steam power was harnessed to drive the platform around and around. Now the carousel wasn’t limited to just the size and weight that could be managed by horse, mule, or man.
The carousel originated in Europe, but reached its greatest fame in America in the 1900’s. The first carousels featured gondolas, carts, menagerie animals, and horses. The French developed many variations of the carousel. In one variation, the riders tried to spear gold rings with lances while the carousel rotated at full speed. This undoubtedly led to the phrase, “catching the brass ring” on later carousels.
Smithville Carousel History:
In 2000 the Fitzgerald’s, owners of the Village Greene portion of Smithville, purchased a 20ft. carousel from Chance Industries. Smithville was always known to have a carousel however when the Fitzgeralds purchase the Village Greene all that could be found was a large round flat of concrete were the carousel once stood. the first year of ownership passed for the Fitzgerald and they found different uses for this area but that round concrete slab seemed so cold and lacking as if crying out for a carousel, and so it was ordered from Whichita Kansas. Now the kid’s where happy, that is to be expected but I can’t tell you how many prom couples and wedding parties have stopped here on there way to have pictures taken on this carousel.
How many elderly couples or grown woman have stopped to get on ,we love it! What is it about a carousel that seems so romantic yet so playful, I’ll never know but I will say this… while here in Smithville I plead with you to not fight the urge to climb yourself up on our carousel and take a ride!
Thank you to Jonathon Peters Photography for the photograph of a snowy carousel at Historic Smithville! Beautiful!