Our one-year-old daughter, Lucina, doesn’t find all of our Adirondack adventures as exciting as my wife and I do. Case in point: A couple of weeks ago we took Lucina to the Bloomingdale Bog trail, a straight, level path that passes through mountain-ringed wetlands, and she slept the entire time. A beaver swimming through the channel 10 feet from where we stood wasn’t even enough to arouse her curiosity, nor was a bald eagle taking flight. But a wooden black fly? Put Lucina on one of those — or a loon, moose, or otter — and her round little face lights right up.
Adirondack Carousel: more exciting than a bog
I still remember Anna’s text message the first time she brought Lucina to the Adirondack Carousel. “Lucina loves the carousel! I’m buying a pass.” The effect is the same every time. We place Lucina in the saddle on whatever Adirondack creature catches our eye that day, the machine whirs to life, and Lucina busts into a wide, gummy grin. The music is jolly and kind of wild; Lucina is usually singing along by the second rotation: “Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh.” That’s all she’s got, but it’s delightful to hear.
Being from Binghamton, New York — the “carousel capital of the world” — I know a thing or two about carousels. There’s a deep history behind a lot of them, and for many people they instill a feeling of nostalgia. I get it. Carousels harken back to a simpler time, when video games and pocket-sized computers were the stuff of pulp sci-fi novels and nothing more. But simple works. To Lucina, the Adirondack Carousel is a thrill ride; maybe when she’s a little older she’ll see that it’s also a work of art. The carousel has twenty-four Adirondack animals, eighteen of which are in rotation, all carved and painted by local artisans. There’s also a wheelchair-accessible chariot that’s modeled after a Chris Craft boat.
The Adirondack Carousel has an old-timey feel that’s reminiscent of Binghamton’s six antique carousels (the oldest of which predates 1900), but its doors officially opened in 2012, making this Saranac Lake carousel quite new. Local woodcarver Karen Loffler came up with the idea in 1999. In 2006, the village donated the land in William Morris Park, and a whole slew of volunteers made it happen. Like many things in Saranac Lake, it started as an idea, was embraced by the community, and slowly worked its way toward becoming a reality.
Today, the panels along the top of the carousel depict Adirondack scenes and local flora hand painted by local artists. There’s a weathervane forged by a local blacksmith sitting atop the main cupola, the ticket counter was built by a local carpenter, and countless volunteers painted and stained the building inside and out. The 3,600-square-foot pavilion that houses the carousel also contains a gallery, workshop, and classroom space, so visitors will find new things to see and do with each visit.
When Anna, Lucina, and I recently visited the Adirondack Carousel, the Carousel-a-Thon was happening. It was a blast. Besides the park’s everyday offerings of playground equipment and quiet beauty, there were all sorts of games, food, and an inflatable bouncy house and slide (yes, I went down the slide). Anna and I might have had more fun than Lucina did, but as I watched kids who were maybe six months older than her climb and jump and play, I knew next summer’s visits to the carousel would be much different. Instead of holding her on a wooden black fly we’ll be watching her run through the grass with other kids, pushing her on the swings, and playing with her on the playground. The carousel will probably still be a thrill ride at that point, but that’s OK. I’m actually pretty excited to hear how her loud little carousel-music singalong evolves.
Make the Adirondack Carousel part of a fun-filled family day in Saranac Lake. See the Dickert Wildlife Collection in the Saranac Lake Free Library, try paddling on Lake Flower or the Saranac River, or try an easy hike.
Visiting the Adirondack Carousel
Getting there: The Adirondack Carousel is in William Morris Park, on the corner of Depot St. and Bloomingdale Ave.