Tonawanda News

December 2, 2013

THROUGH THEIR EYES: Fun and tradition at the Herschell Carrousel Museum

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda is open from the spring to the end of December, and especially with the new Kiddieland exhibit outside, it certainly has plenty going on during the warm-weather months.

But for us, the museum will always be associated with Christmastime. Hence, this week’s Through Their Eyes.

I think Jim was only 2 when we first set foot into the doors of the former carrousel factory. He’d developed a fascination for carrousels during the not-so-long ago October storm of 2006 (when his father took him to the Boulevard Mall everyday for lunch — we were without power for eight days), and the Santa on the Carrousel event seemed to be a perfect holiday activity for our young family. 

We rode the 1916 carrousel multiple times with our then-toddler son, had a photo taken with Santa Claus — I think it graced our Christmas cards that year — probably had some hot cocoa and departed. I knew there was a lot more to it, but with a tired child, there just wasn’t much opportunity to explore at that point.

To some extent, this is still Jim’s pattern when we visit. For him, it’s all about “the horsies.” We circle the 1916 No. 1 Special until he picks a horse; to me, this difficult choice looks random, but he always knows just what he’s seeking. Hoisted into the saddle, he’ll pat its painted mane with a look of concentration, grin throughout the ride and assert “more horsies!” from the moment the ride begins to slow down. 

Of course, we have to repeat this multiple times during any visit.

In recent years, he’s begun to appreciate the 1940s aluminum carrousel in the Children’s Gallery, although he’s now just about too tall for its smaller horses. His more-adventurous little brother, who has wanted to ride alone since the day he was first able to toddle, was responsible for that.

And thanks to Sam, I’ve been able to see more than just the roundhouse and Jim’s beloved horsies through their eyes.

It started with the children’s gallery with its interactive exhibits — and to be honest, the toys — but during our last visit, we spent a bit of time in the Lockman Exhibit with its carved carrousel animals. I pointed out the different styles of horses. He like the inclusion of other animals. We compared the older ones to the newer ones we’ve seen — which was a good introduction to the Wood Carving Shop nearby. 

It was the first time, I think, that he realized those horses didn’t spring fully formed from the head of Poseidon (or whatever). His eyes widened as he saw the raw materials, and how a carrousel horse can emerge from a black of wood. When we got home, I hid the butter knives. We talked about how they were decorated. We talked about how he’d decorate one, if he had the chance.

Carrousels around the country and around the world were made here, I told him. And those rides outside you love? Those too. And lots of other rides you’ve been on at parks throughout the area.

It made him think. It’s a start.

And then we had to go back and ride the carrousel again, of course.

I have to give special mention here to the museum’s Santa on the Carrousel event, which was responsible for drawing us there in the first place all those years ago and takes place Dec. 7, 14 and 21 this year. Visit for more information.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum • WHEN: Through Dec. 30, hours are noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. There are special events for December; check the website. • WHERE: 180 Thompson St., North Tonawanda • COST: Admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors, $3 for children ages 2 to 16. Admission includes one ride token; additional tokens may be purchased for 50 cents. Special events may have a different fee. • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit or call 693-1885.