Carl Borst rides the otter on the Adirondack Carousel next to Pam Chapell on the porcupine. Borst carved the beaver, raccoon, bald eagle and a lot of the bear. Chapell, with her sister and mother (master carver Eileen Fanning), known as the Fanning Garage Grinders, carved the porcupine and the large mouth bass.
The Adirondack Carousel in Saranac Lake began its first run Saturday afternoon, May 26, with the help of a banjo and a frog.
Under the din of oohs, ahhs, laughter and picture-taking, Kermit the Frog’s original rendition of “The Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie” in 1979 could be heard as the carousel’s carvers took the inaugural run, ahead of the general public and invited dignitaries.
“Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers and me.”
There is a rainbow on the carousel, painted in one of the 10 mountain scenes on the rounding boards above the animals. And there is a frog, Lilly, carved by Myrl Phelps.
And the man who picked the carousel music — Wayne Tucker — lives in the hamlet of Rainbow Lake.
Still, Adirondack Carousel Board Chair Marge Glowa suspects that “it probably was a sheer coincidence.” After all, the second song played on Saturday was the “Star Wars” theme, and there were no storm troopers or Wookies around.
Sure enough, Tucker confirmed her suspicion; it was a coincidence.
End of the rainbow
And at the end of this rainbow is the Adirondack Carousel, linked by almost 12 years of dreaming, hard work and perseverance.
“Twelve years ago, this carousel was a dream of one local woman who is also a carver. Her name, as many of you know, is Karen Loffler,” Glowa said during the opening ceremonies. “And Karen’s dream has finally become a reality. This is with a vision to involve, encourage and inspire all youth to appreciate where we live, be environmentally responsible, enjoy the great outdoors of the Adirondacks, to be healthy and to have fun while doing it all.”
Loffler — who carved the otter — stood at the front of the crowd, close enough to the sound system to give tips on microphone feedback (she’s a singer, too) but far enough away to enjoy the moment.
“I’ve had goose bumps since I saw it more than two weeks ago,” Loffler said before Glowa’s opening remarks. “It’s very cool.”
Summing up the carousel in one thought, Loffler said, “It’s really spectacular that the community came together. Every little detail on the carousel was volunteered from someone, and so it’s really wonderful.”
Yes, the Adirondack Carousel was her idea, supported by her former husband, the late Chuck Brumley, and many friends and neighbors.
“But that’s the easy part,” Loffler said of the idea. “Building it was the hard part.”
What they built was a 3,500-square-foot pavilion at the village’s William Morris Park that houses a carousel with 18 hand-carved and painted animals native to the Adirondack Park, plus a handicap-accessible “chariot” — a replica of a Chris-Craft speed boat. The remaining six animals carved for the carousel are on display and will be rotated periodically.
In the fall of 2011, elementary school students from the Saranac Lake Central School District named most of the animals: Flipper (Bass), Paws (Bear), Chuck (Beaver), Bug-Eye (Blackfly), Bubbles (Great Blue Heron), Moonlight (Bobcat), John (Deer), Thunder (Draft Horse), Soarin (Eagle), Flames (Fox), Lilly (Frog), Harry (Hare), Lucy (Loon), Beethoven (Moose), Oliver (Otter), Spike (Porcupine), Ranger (Raccoon), Red Storm (Red Squirrel), Wiggly (Salamander), Spencer (Skunk), Twitter (Thrush), Buck (Toad), Shelly (Turtle) and Tommy (Brook Trout).
Before the public could ride the carousel, three sets of special guests had the honors first: the carvers, then the elementary school students who participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and then the artists who painted the animals, the 10 wildflower medallions and the 10 rounding board panels on the carousel.
Guest speakers included Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh), state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), state Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru), Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau and Dick George, a carousel volunteer who was speaking on behalf of the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. A ribbon-cutting ceremony included local elementary school children hand picked by their principals and the Saranac Lake High School senior who created the “blackfly” artwork chosen for the official Adirondack Carousel T-shirt, Maria Clark, who also cut the yellow ribbon.
Recently appointed Adirondack Carousel Executive Director Paula Hameline was also introduced to the crowd.
Saranac Lake artists
Saranac Lake artist Sandy Hildreth was in charge of coordinating the artists for the carousel project, which included painting the wildflower medallions and the rounding board panels. She dove into the work herself, painting three of the carved animals (otter, black bear and bald eagle), two of the large rounding board panels, and four of the wildflower medallions. She also did all the painting touch-up work and varnished all the animals before they were placed on the carousel.
“It’s our project. Why not have local artists participate?” Hildreth said. “We just have so much talent here, it just seemed like a good thing to do.”
Hildreth doesn’t see her “artist-in-residence” role going away anytime soon.
“They’re going to get nicks and dings and need repairs, so I will sort of be on hand to do that,” Hildreth said.
Asked what this project says about Saranac Lake, Hildreth said, “It says we are an awesome community, full of people and businesses that are so generous with their time. It’s unbelievable.”
Saranac Lake High School art teacher John “Doc” Ward was inspecting the carousel and its collection of artwork before the opening ceremonies. He got a chance to ride the carousel during the third wave. Ward painted one of the rounding boards. It’s an acrylic painting of Oseetah Lake, as seen in the winter. He took a photograph of the scene and then painted it in the studio earlier this year.
“I chose to do the Saranac River, and then I walked along and I ended up doing Oseetah Lake, which is right along the Saranac River,” Ward said. “I went out about 5 o’clock before the sun came up, and it was like 40 below, and I just walked along until the sun came up and I found the right light.”
Visiting the carousel
The Adirondack Carousel pavilion is a year-round building and will include space for programs and special events. A playground next to the carousel will also be built. It is located at the corner of Depot Street and Bloomingdale Avenue.
Ride tokens are $2 each with discounted prices of $5 for three tokens and $10 for seven tokens.
The Carousel will be open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. until late June when it expands operations for the summer to six days a week (Wednesday through Monday) from 11 to 8. The carousel will be closed on Tuesdays. Fall and winter hours will be announced later this year.
For more information and current events, visit www.adirondackcarousel.org, friend the Adirondack Carousel on Facebook, or call (518) 891-9521.