KENNEWICK -- They're not able to go round and round, but the 45 prancing ponies of the 1910 carousel the city of Kennewick has in storage still can draw a crowd.
More than 70 members of the National Carousel Association were bused in from their annual convention in Spokane on Wednesday to see the restored Charles Carmel carousel animals.
Two were from a Michigan carousel group that had hoped to buy it and return it to their state, where it originally is from.
They don't have hard feelings that the horses now are in Kennewick though.
"There are all kinds of rumors that it's been split up and the animals sold," said Ken Kaszubowski of Benton Harbor, Mich. "It's good to see they're all still together. I'm glad I've had this chance to take pictures so I can show people back home."
Michigan's Silver Beach Carousel Society was disappointed when the Three Rivers Carousel Foundation made a deal for the carousel first, but Kaszubowski and Suz Schalon of St. Joseph, Mich., both members of the society, were happy to see the horses restored and intact.
"When carousels fall into disrepair and the animals are sold off, it's sad," Schalon said. "They end up in a collection or in someone's house, and then who gets to enjoy them?"
Kaszubowski said what makes this carousel unique is the kaleidoscope of flashing gems embellishing the animals.
"Other carousel animals have jewels but they're just here and there and sometimes not all the animals have them. These have plenty on every one," he said.
Billie Noren, 78, of Denver, who has been attending carousel association conventions since 1991, said she was anxious to see the restored ponies because the last time she saw them they were stripped of their bright paint and wearing only white primer. That was in Roswell, N.M.
The Charles Carmel carousel originally ran in the Silver Beach amusement park in St. Joseph, Mich. The park closed in 1971 and a year later Marianne Stevens bought the carousel and shipped it to New Mexico, where it was stored, in pieces, in a garage until 2003.
That's when Three Rivers Carousel Foundation members Ken Johanning and Phil Slusser spotted it for sale on the internet. The Three Rivers Carousel Foundation is the buyer of record and the city of Kennewick also has a financial interest in the carousel. It has invested about $850,000 in the project.
The foundation and city have been trying to find a home for the merry-go-round for years, but in the meantime carousel painters Sue Wilson and Bette Largent of Spokane restored the horses' bright colors.
Noren said the heyday of carousels was from the 1880s to 1930s.
"Then there were 3,000 to 4,000 across the country. Now there are only about 160 of the antique, wood-carved carousels left," she said.
But the art has not died. There's a company carving new ones, Carousel Works in Mansfield, Ohio. (See their work at www.carouselworks.com.)
The Silver Beach Carousel Society turned to Carousel Works when it commissioned a newly carved carousel to set up close to where the 1910 Charles Carmel once stood on Michigan's Silver Beach.
"Six of the horses (on the new carousel) are reproductions of the horses here," Kaszubowski said, waving his hand at the painted ponies surrounding him in the city-owned storage building.
How to help:For more information on the 1910 Charles Carmel carousel in storage, or to make a donation for a building to house it, go to www.threeriverscarousel.org.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; email@example.com