On the carousel

November 2018

Step on to the carousel and experience the sweet delight of childhood memories! No matter what your age, the fabulous wooden horses in their colourful splendour and the music from the Wurlitzer organ will take you for a ride full of smiles and laughter.

Built in 1915, the C.W. Parker Carousel came to Chippewa Park in 1934 and has been making us happy ever since! Now, thanks to the Friends of Chippewa Park and the City of Thunder Bay, along with a Canada 150 grant and private donations, the restoration of our carousel, which is one of three of its kind in the world, is well underway.

Donna Gilhooly, co-chair of the Carousel Restoration Committee and Terry Hurtig, a founding member of Superior Association of Woodworkers (SAW), were confident that local craftspeople and artisans could be found to restore this designated heritage structure. Through a bidding process, Vic Germaniuk, who owns and operates Woodcraft Design and has years of experience in sign painting and woodworking and the team that he had brought together were successful. This team is a totally local crew of artisans with a vast array of skills.

At the onset, Lisa Parr, the renowned international Carousel restoration specialist, was hired to guide the project. Due to the specialized nature of the restoration, she was initially concerned about being able to round up enough local talent to do the work. However, Thunder Bay came through, and the entire restoration is being done by local artisans and tradespeople. Lisa Parr has been very impressed with the quality of the restoration. Congratulations to everyone on the team!

The project is a meticulous process of strict protocol that involves stripping the horses of paint, repairing broken parts, replacing missing parts and painting that is historically correct. Each of these steps requires an amazing amount of work that demands great attention to detail.

The wooden horses certainly needed to be restored, but the experts were surprised at how well they had weathered the storm. This all comes down to two facts: 1) Over the years, the carousel has been stored indoors during the winter, and 2) the City and Chippewa staff have done a stellar job of looking after the horses. As a result, the carousel is worthy of restoration. After the work has been completed, it will offer generations of beauty and fun to the visitors and residents of Thunder Bay.

Along with the restoration of the horses and the Wurlitzer organ, there are sixteen rounding boards that top the carousel that will be refurbished. Iconic scenes from Thunder Bay and area will be painted on the rounding boards by local artists. The two chariots that grace the carousel will also be restored with one of them being made wheelchair accessible to ensure that everyone enjoys the ride.

Fourteen of the twenty-eight horses have already been restored and were in service on the carousel this summer. The project is going forward with enthusiastic local interest. The future of our carousel depends on us. As Terry Hurtig said, “Local artisans are saving Thunder Bay’s historical gem.” How can we help with this restoration? We can become part of this project by adopting a horse or sponsoring a rounding board, chariot or a centre column panel. Or how about buying a horseshoe, a bit, some reins or one of the seventeen jewels that decorate each and every horse? There are all kinds of ways to participate. Visit the local Christmas craft shows where the Carousel Restoration Committee will be selling C.W.Parker Carousel Christmas cards and Christmas balls with hand drawn exact replicas of a carousel horse . Get on the carousel and save this exciting part of our history!

Visit www.saveourcarousel.com for information on adoption or contact us at donate@saveourcarousel.com.

Karen Christie is a retired high school teacher and a regular contributor to Bayview. She can be reached at kchri@shaw.ca

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