Along with my sister-in-law, three nieces and one nephew, I finally had a chance yesterday to see and ride the “Wildlife Carousel” which had its Grand Opening on July 24, 2010 at Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, MA.
First, about the zoo: The Buttonwood Park Zoo is located right off of Rte 140 South in New Bedford and has been renovated since my childhood days when I used to to go with my family. There are a number of great animal exhibits including bears, seals, bison, and “Buttonwood Farm” which often has baby animals on view. My favorite is the elephant compound, which has two females, Emily and Ruth. Emily was the main zoo attraction when I was a little girl, and she went to another zoo for a while during the renovation several years ago, so seeing her now is extra special. The zoo is small enough that even young children can see the entire zoo without mom and dad having stroller fatigue, and there is a mini-train ride for those who like to take in the scenic views. There animal sculptures everywhere and beautiful natural landscaping throughout. The bathrooms are very clean, and the concession area is indoors, air conditioned, and has good food at a reasonable price. Zoo admission is $3 for kids (kids under 3 years: free), $6 for adults (you can get a family pass for a very reasonable price, too). Parking is free!
Back to the Wildlife Carousel: In addition to being an extra fun activity at the zoo, this carousel is an amazing piece of art as well. Each of the fiberglass animals is hand painted and includes wildlife creatures such as an eagle, a zebra, a hummingbird, a giraffe, a seal, and more. The top and center of the carousel is patriotic red, white, and blue with gold eagles and trim. There is traditional carousel music that plays and lights, too! The zoo is considering having the carousel open one night a week. How magical, to ride that carousel all lit up on a starry night! I have great memories of the zoo from when I was a kid, but thanks to sponsors and a lot of work, this zoo has become better than ever. The carousel is just one more thing about Buttonwood Park that will create wonderful memories for kids and adults, too!
So we paid our $2 ticket price (adults who stand next to small children on the ride are not charged) and waited for the next ride. My nephew Grady chose a reindeer, Emily chose a horse, Lily chose a roaring tiger, and me and my niece Abby took the double seat which when needed serves as a handicapped accessible seating area as well (Abby initially wanted to ride the giraffe, but had second thoughts when she saw that it looked so tall!). I rode along on the bench with Abby and soon all of the animals filled up with carousel riders of all ages.
The animals are so new and glossy they shine in the sun. They are colorful and as beautiful close up as they are in the pictures I’d seen. When everyone was secured with safety belts, the bell rang, the music cranked up, and we were off! It was great fun and there were smiles all around!
Both fiberglass and wooden carousels are produced today in various places around the U.S. and Europe. Carousels can be made to order and can even be custom-built for a specific location. There are also places that sell antique carousels. Master carvers who create the figures for these amazing art works are highly respected and in great demand. To get an idea of what goes into building a carousel, visit The Carousel Works web Shop Tour! Carousel makers are also experts at restoring old carousels so that generations can enjoy them for years to come. Many of the carousel museums and manufacturers offer classes in the art form, which sounds like a lot of fun, too.
I’ve added some links to some web sites that have interesting info and pictures of carousels if you’d like to learn more...
The Carousel Works
Herschell Carrousel Museum
Brass Ring Entertainment
National Carousel Association
The Carousel Museum