When we think of carousels, we think of the beautifully designed horses, with golden metal poles mounted down the center and accompanied by circus music. Since the early 1800’s, carousels are all about the children, laughing as they go round and round and have been a huge part of American history.

While there are many designs to carousels, the idea of a carousel has been around for centuries before America even existed. So, to observe the fine-tuned history of carousels, Carousel Day is a day just for that! So strap in and enjoy the ride on an American pastime.

Learn about Carousel Day

The purpose of Carousel Day is to honor this incredible invention. This is one of the most instantly recognizable fairground and amusement park rides. A carousel, which is also known as a merry-go-round, is a sort of amusement ride, which consists of a circular platform that rotates and has seats for riders. Traditionally, these seats would be wooden horses or other animals. However, we have seen different themed carousels pop up over the world. 

Some of the world’s most magical carousels can be found at: 

  • The Musée des Arts Forains at the Pavillons de Bercy in Paris
  • Wisconsin’s House on the Rock
  • Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn, New York
  • The Stoomcarrousel in Efteling, Netherlands 

These carousels are special for different reasons. Jane’s Carousel is housed in a glass box, providing amazing urban views of New York. The Stoomcarrousel, on the other hand, is a much older carousel, which celebrates steam power. It was built in 1895, and it traveled around many places until an amusement park in Efteling purchased it in 1956. These are just a few of the incredible carousels you can find all over the world, and so we definitely recommend doing a bit of digging online. You will be amazed by some of the stunning and magical carousels that are situated around the world.

History of Carousel Day

In order to understand the history of Carousel Day, we need to understand the history of the carousel. One of the first conceptual designs for a carousel was in 500 A.D. in the Byzantine Empire, which depicts baskets, carrying riders, suspended from a central pole.

This was an activity that needed excellent horsemanship and skill. In fact, the word carousel comes from the word ‘garosello,’ which is Italian, and the word ‘carosella,’ which is Spanish. It means ‘little battle.’ This was used by crusaders as a description of the combat preparation exercises and games that were played by the Arabian and Turkish horsemen during the 12th century. 

There were carousels being created and operated at a number of different gatherings and fairs in England and Central Europe in the early 18th century. However, it was not until the 1840s when  Franz Wiesenoffer created the first merry-go-round in the United States in Hessville, Ohio. Unfortunately, though. He did not patent the design, and so he’s not officially credited as the creator. 

Then, Bette Largent, President of the National Carousel Association, and carousel historian, Ronald Hopkins founded National Merry-Go-Round Day in 2014. Also called Carousel Day, it was formed to honor William Schneider of Davenport, Iowa who, due to patenting the carousel in 1871, is considered the official inventor of the modern carousel by the U.S. Patent Office.

The National Carousel Association, operating since 1973, aims to keep carousels running and preserve their history in the United States. Since then, the NCA tracks the history of carousels all around the United States in its census. The NCA is a non-profit organization and accepts donations to help keep carousel history alive.

The NCA also has a census, a giant data collection of carousels all over North America, keeping track of vintage and modern carousels, as well as repairing old carousels to keep them functioning. Every year, the NCA hosts a convention called The New England Carousel Revolution, where people travel around in buses all over the New England area to check out vintage carousels in parks, museums, and boardwalks.

How to celebrate Carousel Day

According to the NCA census, there are hundreds of registered carousels in the United States. In fact, chances are there is a carousel hiding your neighborhood just waiting to be discovered. Celebrate this holiday with a visit to your local fair by checking the national census on the NCA’s webpage.

Also, check your local area for county fairs or amusement parks and head on out there. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of your local carousel, find out by contacting your local directors and asking them about it. Take your kids to the local fair, or if you don’t have kids, ride one yourself. Go out there and have fun!

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Carousel Day from the comfort of your own home, why not watch the film Carousel? This is a 1956 musical movie, which is based on a musical from 1945 that had the same name.

A lot of critics have stated that this musical contains the most beautiful songs that have been created by Rodgers and Hammerstein. For those who are unaware, Rodgers and Hammerstein refer to a duo of the lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer Richard Rodgers. The story is about a handsome, macho, and rough-talking carousel barker, called Billy Bigelow, and an innocent and young mill worker, Julie Jordan.

The plot is one of the most serious storylines found in a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, as you go on a journey of love and heartbreak. It is a great film to watch, and it has received a lot of positive reviews, so why not celebrate Carousel Day by getting the popcorn in and watching this movie?

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