SANDPOINT — Cheers filled the Sandpoint Granary Warehouse Saturday as the doors to two vintage cargo trailers were opened, releasing 36 horses from a 64-year slumber.
One at a time, Clay Hutchison and helpers removed the old wooden horses, which belong to a 1920 Allan Herschell Carousel, as the crowd of about 150 people watched with excitement. As they were unloaded, people in the crowd began petting the horses and looking over the craftsmanship.
One of the most excited among the crowd was Hutchison's wife, Reno, whose passion for carousels stemmed from her first ride at the Columbia Gardens in Montana as a child. That carousel burned down, creating in her the desire to find and restore a "golden age" carousel.
As the trailers were unloaded Saturday, Reno Hutchison stood in the warehouse, surrounded by the horses and staring at them with a smile and glistening of tears ready to escape from the corners of her eyes.
"I'm shocked," she said. "I can't wait to just take a little time with each of the horses now, because I haven't seen them yet. I don't know what we have. All carousels have a lead horse, so I am trying to figure out which one is the lead horse — and we actually have more poses of horses than I anticipated, which is really exciting."
Bette Largent, president of the National Carousel Association, was another who could not wait to see the vintage carousel first-hand.
"This is so exciting for me," Largent said. "In the years I have been in the carousel industry, I keep saying we have got to have some more carousels in Idaho."
The Hutchisons purchased the 1920 carousel, which they dubbed the "Carousel of Smiles," after discovering it 16 years ago and saving it from auction.
The carousel was stranded in the Midwest after a traveling fair shut down for the 1952 season and never reopened. In 2000, Clay Hutchison's sister-in-law called him from Kansas City when she was helping a friend, who happened to have an antique carousel in a collection of Americana and folk art going up for auction.
The Hutchisons then moved the trailers to a storage barn in upstate New York where they remained until recently making the long trip to Sandpoint where the Hutchisons, along with help from the community, will restore the old machine and find it a permanent home.
"For this to work it really takes the community — that's all of you and everyone else — to really adopt this carousel," Clay Hutchison told the crowd before opening the trailer doors. "If we as a community love this carousel, it will in turn love us back."
Although it needs much restoration work, the carousel is complete, which is rare for vintage wooden carousels. It includes the 36 hand-carved wooden horses, rounding boards and original artwork. It is a 14-sweep, three-row, 40-foot diameter carousel, about the size of the carousel at Riverfront Park in Spokane.
Dan Mimmack, a local woodworker, was as excited as anyone to see the carousel in Sandpoint.
"I have been a carousel aficionado for years and years," Mimmack said as he waited for the trailers to open, adding that he has always thought Sandpoint needed a children's carousel.
He said the project is going to be "huge," but the fact most horses were stripped of paint is "a lot of work already done." Mimmack said he is adopting one of the horses to restore at no cost to the Hutchisons.
Mimmack said he is working on an idea where, after he gets the wood on the horse he adopts back to its former glory, he would like to put it at Creations for Sandpoint in the Cedar Street Bridge.
"We are going to paint one in public, so the public can actually see the work being done ... that's what we are hoping for," Mimmack said.