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Summer marks 100th anniversary of Camden Park's Carousel

Huntington Herald Dispatch

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June 17, 2007

If you grow up in Huntington, a visit to Camden Park is somewhat inevitable.

It's an institution that many children in the area have come to know and love. Just around the corner from the entrance of the park sits a park staple, the carousel.

On a typical business day at the park, numerous smiling children go round and round on the colorful ride. What the children likely don't realize is that many of their parents took the same spin in their youth. Even their grandparents, often found sitting patiently on the nearby benches, may have some experience on the same horse their grandchild is riding.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Camden Park's carousel.

Although the park opened in 1903, the carousel was one of the first rides to be installed in the park in 1907. Joy Wilkerson, the public relations assistant at Camden Park, has come to know the carousel all too well.

"This is a wooden carousel, and that's very unique," Wilkerson said. "A lot of carousels now are made of aluminum or fiberglass."

The carousel was purchased from the Herschell-Spillman Company out of North Tonowanda, N.Y. For years, what later became known as the Spillman Company, was the largest manufacturer of amusement park rides.

There are only about 100 wooden carousels left in the country. Most of these have been torn down because of weather damage or fires. Some carousels have been split up for collectors.

"Some people like to collect horses, so some companies sell them off to keep them intact," Wilkerson said.

The Camden Park carousel requires very little in the way of maintenance. Wilkerson says the carousel was very well made, so the only renovation to the ride is a paint job every year to maintain the original colors of the carousel.

Clad with 36 horses and shining on a hot summer day, the carousel is features a rich and lengthy history. More importantly, however, it is home to memories of thousands of people who have ridden it in the last century.

"There are a lot of theme parks that are new that have that kind of excitement, but there's no depth or history to them," Wilkerson said. "When you come here and see kids riding it today, it just spans generations. That's more valuable than having the newest, most innovative thing in roller coasters."

The carousel isn't only an asset to Huntington's history, but in the history of individuals like Wilkerson.

"The first time I rode this carousel, I was four," she said. "I came here with my grandparents and cousin. My parents always talk about my dad coming here when he was little."

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