Tonawanda News

April 2, 2014

Another go-round

With new attractions ready, Carrousel Museum to open for season

By Mia Summerson mia.summerson@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It brings pride to residents of a small city to know that they have something that sets their home apart from anywhere else. For North Tonawanda, one of those things is the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, which opens today for its 2014 season. 

And this year it won’t be the same old merry-go-round.

This year, the museum is also preparing for the first full season of the new Kiddieland section, which will open on Memorial Day weekend. After several years of work and $350,000, the new attraction features many of the Herschell rides designed for small children, including three rides from the old Page’s Whistle Pig in the Town of Niagara and another donated ride.

The museum also recently acquired a steam-operated train ride made in 1895, when Allan Herschell was a partner in the Armitage-Herschell company, museum Director Rae Proefrock said. The train is on loan to the museum indefinitely from an anonymous donor. 

In addition to the new attractions, Proefrock said visitors will be enlightened about the rich history surrounding the Herschell company.

Starting out in 1905 as a lumber mill, the Herschell company has been manufacturing carrousel parts since 1915. The Thompson Street building was sold in 1959 and was essentially used for storage. More than two decades later, a group of residents decided it was time someone did something about it. The museum now draws thousands of visitors per year.

“Most old amusement parks started off with a carrousel in the woods somewhere, then they would add food and skating rinks and eventually additional rides,” Proefrock said. She also added that many of the carrousels that people ride today are Herschell products. 

The main building has been left largely unchanged from the way it looked back when it was in use in the early 20th century. There, people can see the work benches where horses were carved from basswood, as well as the Wurlitzer music rolls that provided the classic tunes that no carrousel ride is complete without. 

Employee Bud Beiter said doing something that brings joy to children drew him to the museum after retiring. 

“I retired in September, but this place has a lot of appeal to me,” he said. “I started doing maintenance and restoration; every day you work on something different. I like how it appeals not only to kids, but the adults who want to feel like kids again.” 

In addition to the season opening, several events are coming up starting with the “Egg-cellent” Easter event April 19, followed by a Victorian Tea on April 26 and others. A complete list can be found on the museum’s website, www.carrouselmuseum.org.

Spring hours at the museum are noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. 

Contact reporter Mia Summerson at 693-1000, ext. 4313.