'Skillet', our carousel rabbit, hand-carved by Kristi Gardiner.
Carousel Trail and Fontaine Ferry Park, Pg. 2
What about the glorious Fontaine Ferry Park carousel? In the late 1980's after my husband and I had joined the American Carousel Society and the National Carousel Association (we are not current members of either at this time) we met a lady named Marianne Stevens. She is a founder of the carousel society and one of the country's leading carousel authorities, co-authoring the acclaimed 'Painted Ponies' book with William Manns. I had found a very old photo of one of my favorite horses from Fontaine Ferry Park in an old magazine and described this horse to Ms. Stevens who said she knew which horse I spoke of and agreed that it was especially lovely! She told us that the Fontaine Ferry Park carousel had been sold and NOT broken-up (as we had been previously led to believe by a local antiques dealer who I'll leave unnamed). She told us it was at the Great America Park in Gurnee, Illinois and still operating! Wow! Was that exciting news for me.
We had been talking with our friend, carousel carver Kristi Gardiner, with whom we'd met in 1988 and had become fast friends, about carving a carousel animal for us. I wanted one to look like my favorite horse from Fontaine Ferry and Alan fancied having a carousel rabbit (yes, there are carousel rabbits, just not one on the carousel at Fontaine Ferry Park!). We decided we'd have to have both and the good Lord allowed that to happen! We planned a trip to Gurnee, Illinois in the fall of 1989 with Kris and her then-husband, Tom, to see the carousel horse and let me ride my favorite carousel once more. I still couldn't believe my good fortune in finding out that I was about to ride my favorite horse (whom I decided to call 'Sundance', becoming a Robert Redford fan, etc.) from Fontaine Ferry Park.
At the entrance to the Great America park is a double-decker carousel which is their showpiece (it is NOT, however, a hand-carved antique carousel as is the ex-Fontaine Ferry Park carousel). We found our carousel finally, which they now call 'Ameri-Go-Round' and I was flooded with emotion. After walking all around the carousel I was shocked to discover that the horse I called 'Sundance' was not on it! We talked to park management who were very gracious with us and tried to describe the horse as I remembered it. They told us they had not sold any of the animals from the ex-Fontaine Ferry Park carousel and perhaps it was one that was currently under restoration. They took us to the building where some restoration was being done, but we did not find 'Sundance' there.
I was pretty heart-broken about not finding 'Sundance', but at the same time, still so very happy that I was able to ride my beloved carousel again (and again, and again, and again). I rode that carousel all day (I'm sure to the annoyance of my 3 companions), but I just could not get enough - I knew I'd probably never be back again, you see, and this was my childhood revisited. Well, I rode and rode and wound up with saddle sores the next day (no fooling, it can happen!). It would seem kind of silly to some to pay a general admission for all the rides in the park and stay on the same one all day, but that's what I did. There were about 2 or 3 other rides I took, but I kept returning to "my carousel". It was a major event for me, one I'll always cherish.
Well, we were totally perplexed about what had become of 'Sundance' and no one seemed to have an answer for us as to his whereabouts. It was the next year (1990) that Alan met a fellow (Walt Schultz) at a class he was taking in Atlanta. Somehow the subject of the carousel came up (I suppose when Alan discovered that Walt lived in the Gurnee, Illinois area). Alan told him about 'Sundance' told him if he was ever at the amusement park to please look for that horse again. Well, much to our surprise, one day in the fall of 1990, we received an envelope from Walt. There had been an outing to Great America with his family and he had found 'Sundance' there, newly restored, and mailed us the picture!!! I was totally beside myself with glee, knowing that 'Sundance' was still in existence. We could tell from the photo that this was NOT a fiberglass reproduction of the horse, because I noticed that a hind leg had been built back up from where it apparently had been damaged. I'll forever be thankful for this photo of my beloved childhood carousel horse (we now have a blow-up of that photo framed, another of our treasures). So, if you're out there, Walt, thanks so much!
Original 'Sundance' from Fontaine Ferry, restored & at
Gurnee, Ill. Photo Walt Schultz, 1990
Our 'Sundance', similar to FF Park horse in
previous photo, carved by Kristi Gardiner.
At this time, we've never returned to what's now called 'Six Flags Great America' in Gurnee, Illinois. I suppose I'm afraid that the horse would once again disappear. For now it's enough to know that the wonderful carousel animals from Louisville's Fontaine Ferry Park are still giving pleasure to ALL children (and adults), regardless of color, thank God.
'Scout', our Allan-Hershell horse, restored by Kris Gardiner.
'Storm', our Parker 'stargazer' horse, retains old 'park paint'.