SANDPOINT — With all parts of the "Golden Age" machine in tow, community members are excited at the possibility of Sandpoint having its own carousel for all to enjoy.
"I think it's incredible that they were able to gather a complete carousel when I was just reading that so many of them have been split up and parceled out over the years, so this is just a phenomenal chance that they have to bring this back to life — it would be incredible to see it at City Beach," said Hannah Combs with the Pend Oreille Arts Council as she saw the carousel for the first time Saturday.
During Saturday's open house, those who missed the grand unveiling in December — and those who just can't get enough — browsed the ponies, the original artwork, the rounding board shields and other original 1920s elements.
It was Ember Cooke's second birthday on Saturday, so his mother, Casey Cooke, was given permission to set him on one of the horses. Ember was a little apprehensive as cameras started clicking, but his mom was all smiles as she browsed the "Carousel of Smiles." Casey Cooke said after learning about the open house, she decided to take herself "on a date" to the carousel, adding that she would have gone even if she didn't have a 2-year-old.
"I love it," she said. "It's so nostalgic; I have good memories of carousels."
The 1920 Allan Herschell carousel is currently stored in the Granary Warehouse on Oak Street, but carousel owners Clay and Reno Hutchison said the next step is to find a permanent, climate-controlled building where the restoration can commence. While all of the parts are there and in pretty good condition considering its age, the machine is going to need a lot of work. Clay Hutchison said they are in the process of putting together a restoration plan, which includes documenting everything they have, such as photographs and measurements, and then getting the "proper input" on what they should be doing as per the restoration and how to go about doing it.
"I do want to assemble it in its unrestored state for a couple of reasons," Clay Hutchison said. "One that we will really launch this project, and two, we will learn a lot about this carousel by doing that."
The 36 horses are all hand-carved wooden animals. After being abandoned in vintage cargo trailers in a Kansas field in 1952, the paint was stripped off the ponies for restoration, but only two were repainted. Mostly the ponies are in good shape with a few cracks and a couple missing legs.
"Aren't they incredible?" Reno Hutchison said as she looked around at the ponies. "Every time I come over here I just get so excited."
Along with the 36 horses, the carousel also includes two carved chariots. Clay Hutchison said they found an old flier from the Herschell company and the chariot pictured on it is "exactly" identical to the two in their possession.
"We were very happy to see that, because we had no idea what the chariots looked like until we unloaded it ... they are pretty elaborate," Clay Hutchison said.
One of the chariots may not go back onto the carousel when it's complete, but Reno Hutchison said they may carve a new chariot that is wheelchair accessible as per Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
"That way everybody can ride," she said. "I just think it's so important that everybody who wants to ride it gets to ride it."
The original chariot replaced by the ADA accessible chariot will likely be restored and put in the building where people can sit in it and have photos taken.
Additionally, there are 14 rounding boards, 14 rounding board shields with stylized faces representing the “Four Winds” from Greek mythology, and 14 interior artwork panels, which according to the Carousel of Smiles website, appear to have been painted by the carnival artist L. Wagner “Davis."