Who Can Resist the Magic?
The Salem's Riverfront Carousel Story
Salem's Riverfront Carousel Founder
Salem's Riverfront Carousel project was inspired by a trip Hazel Patton took in 1996 to visit family in Missoula, Montana. While there she went to see the first old-world style carousel built in the U.S. since the Great Depression. When Hazel rode the carousel, she knew it was more than the music and motion of the ornately carved and hand-painted horses that created magic in Missoula. The real beauty was how the carousel united the community by combining history with the creative talents of Missoula's citizens.
She knew that the citizens of Salem could bring similar magic to the banks of the Willamette River.
Without the power of our volunteers, the carousel simply wouldn’t exist. The carousel would never have been built or sustained without the countless people who have given their time. The Carousel took about 6 years to build all from the hands of dedicated volunteers and community partners bringing Hazel's vision to life. Every element of the Carousel's animals, fixtures and decorations are handcrafted and uniquely designed to represent either the sponsors who funded that portion of the carousel, or to tell stories of our local and historical environment here in Salem, Oregon.
Groundbreaking for the building that houses the carousel at the south end of Riverfront Park was held June 14, 2000. Less than a year later, the grand opening was held June 2, 2001.
One of the few glitches early on included an organ that played too loudly. Adjustments were made, and more than 300,000 people came that first year to ride their favorite steeds.
Others visited during 325 special events, from birthday parties to political rallies. The board of directors paid off the building in that first year, rendering the carousel debt free!
Every carousel animal has a whimsical and nostalgic story behind it. Most were sponsored by Salem residents, families or businesses and are symbolic of the values and memories they hold dear. They are christened with adorable names like Razzle Dazzle, Magic, Sweat Pea and Snickerdoodle.
The Carousel was first built with only horses and a zebra in design. However, over the past five years our volunteer artisans have been busy planning and crafting 12 new animals all part of our "New Dream" project.
We have added Mr. Hopkins the Frog, Sweet Pea the Llama, Emerald the Dragon, Harriett the Giraffe and Blackberry the Deer. And we are underway with Sweet Tart the Skunk, Dakota Darlin' the Hereford Heifer, U of O Duck, Benny the OS Beaver, a shark and more!