Here are some interesting facts about the Spokane Carousel:
Go for the Gold!
"You only go through life once, you might as well go for the brass ring", a
quote often given whose roots are in the carousel industry. But, the original
signs from the Spokane Looff Carrousel said "grab the gold ring".
And of course, the prize for the lucky rider who grabs the brass ring is a free ride on the carousel!
The original "other rings" were often made of steel or iron. They were
banned at the new location because of possible damage to building, windows,
The current rings are colorful plastic, made courtesy of one of our
local supporters and sponsors, the Dana-Saad Company. Made of their left
over plastic casting materials, they are often colorful for the season as well,
black and orange for Halloween; red, white and blue for the 4th of July.
So what do you do with the plastic rings? This clown is just waiting to
have you throw them at him. And if you get your ring in his mouth, you'll
be rewarded by the ringing of a bell! (Won't your fellow
riders be jealous?)
Ring My Bell
The bells on the carousel tell the rider and the attendant the status of the
One bell - it is ready to start
Two bells - it is beginning to turn
Three bells - the carousel is at full speed.
The bell used in Spokane is an antique trolley bell. (Most carousels were in
trolley parks, and trolleys used the same system to communicate to their riders.)
And how do you ring this bell? You smack it with an antique hammer!
Considered by the antique carousels as a
necessary piece of equipment for safety, new carousels consider it also part
of the magic. It alerts the rider that the fun is beginning. Bells are used
on airlines and in hospitals today for the same reason, to communicate. Can
you think of others? Ships, buoys, trains, seat belt warnings in our personal
The detail of carving in the Looff figures goes right down to the nails in the
horseshoes. Each horseshoe has the same number of square-headed nails!
Spokane's carousel has 54 horses, and all of them are Jumpers. (Jumpers are
horses that are carved in a running position, and that move up and down with
the rotation of the carousel.) This is the only carousel produced by Looff on which
all of the horses were jumpers.
Our carousel turns at a speed of 4 rpm.
With a 50-foot diameter and a circumference of 157 feet, this puts the rim speed of the platform at 10.5 feet per second, or about 7 mph.
In the spring of 2006, our carrousel's motor required an overhaul. While it was in the shop, the original motor was put back into operation. This motor turns our carrousel at 5 rpm, for a calculated speed of 8.9 mph!
The building that currently houses our carousel was originally put up for Expo '74, where
it served as the temporary location of the Bavarian Gardens.
The carousel had been considered as an attraction for the world's fair,
but that idea was abandoned because it was thought that too
many riders might cause problems with the carousel, which had been in storage for
several years at that time.
After the fair, the carousel was assembled in this building, which had really
been designed for it all along.
Our horses will be getting new tails this year. Each horse gets a tail made from
real horse hair, taken mostly from racehorses. The tails were
sorted and labeled for all 54 horses to insure that each horse gets a tail that
compliments its colors.
The carousel is the world's only ridable art form. Our figures get three coats of
clear coat (the polyurethane finish used for hardwood floors)
to help protect them from all of the blue jeans, buckles, rivets and whips (the
belt from the neighboring horse works well for a whip)
that they must endure during a season.
Linseed oil based Alkyd enamels are used to paint the horses. Linseed oil to old wood
is like hand lotion to dry hands. It puts moisture back into the wood. After more than
90 years a lot of the moisture has left the wood, which makes the antique horses much
lighter than newly carved horses.
Natatorium Park (The Nat)
The Nat was a very important part to the children's survival during the depression.
They don't remember the hard times (which is how people are), but they DO remember the good
times at The Nat. They often tell stories of how they would save to have enough to take
the bus one way. Not having enough money to ride the rides, they would
just listen to the carousel, then walk home.
The local newspaper sponsored Twickenham Days, where a contest blank and a little
luck was all it would take to win those coveted tickets for a free day at The Nat.
(In its early days, Natatorium Park was named Twickenham Park.)
Teams of Horses
The colors are coordinated in each three-abreast row of horses on our carousel.
And the head positions are such that the horses don't hide each other, and so
that they compliment the motion of their running mates.