Restored carousel will bring memories and more to Botanica

Written by Amy Palser

A new generation of Wichitans will soon be riding the old Joyland carousel, just in time for the beloved relic’s 70th birthday. The 1949 Allan Herschell Co. carousel is set to open this fall at Botanica and will be housed inside a brand-new pavilion, surrounded by beautiful gardens and interactive attractions.

Hundreds of donors have made the $2.5 million project possible, from construction of the Botanica Carousel Pavilion to refurbishing of the horses, organ and other carousel features. Botanica plans to open the pavilion sometime between mid-October to early November, depending on the weather.

Margaret Nelson Spear, who owns the amusement park that closed in 2004, donated the carousel to Botanica in May 2014. Since that time, numerous groups, individuals, businesses and artists have come together to start the restoration project and bring the carousel back to life. With its 36 horses and two chariots, the 40-foot carousel is believed to be the only one of its kind remaining. Marlene Irvin, owner of Custom Carving and Restoration in Wichita, is restoring the horses, while the organ, called the Midget Monster, is being restored by Gordon Ramsey of Ramsey Music Service.

While the project centers around the carousel, it will feature many other fun features for people of all ages. The 9,000-square-foot pavilion includes an educational/party room, restrooms, carousel organ room and outdoor patio with seating for 300. The pavilion was designed by WDM Architects and will be located west of Downing Children’s Garden.

The pavilion has glass doors that can close during inclement weather, making the carousel a year-round attraction. The pavilion will be heated, and parts of it will be air conditioned. The educational/party room, sponsored by Spirit AeroSystems, will be open to the public and can also be rented for birthday parties. There will also be a giant Light Bright wall and a painting wall.

Botanica’s goal was to make the carousel the center of an interactive play area for all ages. “Our team is determined that the Carousel Project will have a lasting impact on our guests by making our gardens more than just a visual experience, but a place to engage all of the senses,” said Jamee Ross, Botanica director of development.

While the carousel restoration is fully funded, a few funding and naming opportunities still exist for the pavilion, as well as a second phase, which includes the Carousel Gardens. Ross said the garden project is set to begin in spring 2020 and open in fall 2020. It will feature a topiary garden, natural and creative play space, Hobbit Hill, climbing rock wall, stump walk, rolling hill, accessible water features and an event stage for concerts.

Botanica officials are excited to give the Joyland carousel new life, and once again make it an object of joy and memories for the next generation.

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