By Michael Regan
Niagara Gazette — Work is moving along at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, where those involved in a new outdoor exhibit are pinning their hopes on the idea that the venture will add another element to the museum’s cultural portfolio.
That and membership numbers, the lifeblood of its funding sources.
While the groundwork was laid during the spring and summer, including utility lines and a drainage system, the three structures that will house new rides have taken off in recent weeks.
“Even though it didn’t look like anything had been done over the summer, it was,” said Rae Proefrock, director of the museum. “But the buildings are getting done really fast and its exciting.”
Proefrock envisions opening the exhibit by Memorial Day, which she said is already nearly two years behind the organization’s original deadline. But with state funding options and an anonymous donor quadrupling the funding pot from $100,000 to $400,000, and the opportunity to obtain three unique pieces into the carrousel museum’s collection, she said it’s worth the wait.
“What happened mostly is that we kept changing our minds and adding to the project and we needed additional funding to do what we wanted to do,” she said. “For example, initially there was going to be no cover for the rides, we would have to take them down each winter, and there was no roof. Now we have steel doors on all sides and a roof. Everything is going to be wide open but at night we can just pull the doors down and keep everything neat and clean and we won’t have to take them down in the winter. That’s a real gift.”
The project, when complete, will be aptly named Kiddieland, and will constitute a departure from the carrousel-centric wares found inside the museum.
Part of the reason for all the anticipation, Proefrock said, is the fact that three non-carrousel rides bring another aspect into the mix, including a pony ride cart, kiddie helicopter ride and kiddie boat ride all created in the 1930s and 1940s in the very building that now serves as the museum. The items were procured from the owners of the old Page’s Whistle Pig in Niagara Falls, while another “car ride” was received from another donor. It will also make the displays safer, more colorful and better protective of those who use them.
“Initially it was supposed to be one open pavilion for picnics, three concrete pads and a fence and there wasn’t even a roof,” Proefrock said. “We were just going to put a canvas over the rides.”
And as construction workers continue to whittle away at on the outdoor exhibit, volunteers are nearly finished refurbishing the rides themselves. In the spring grading, walkways and lighting should round out the effort.
Proefrock said the historic significance of adding the non-carrousel rides created in the second half of the Allan Herschell Company’s existence will bring a more well-rounded exhibit.
“But from an operating perspective it will increase our membership and non-member attendance,” she said. “It’s an exhibit, it’s not just an amusement park. We just hope people are as excited about it as we are, though we expect those who rode these rides at the Whistle Pig.”Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.