NORTH TONAWANDA – Many area residents remember begging their parents to stop at Page’s Whistle Pig Restaurant for a chance to go around on the kiddie rides, but after Page’s closed in the Town of Niagara, the kiddie rides became a distant memory.
Now, after years of planning, fundraising, and painstaking restoration, they’re back and even better than before at Herschell Carrousel Museum’s “Kiddieland Testing Park,” which will open with a ribbon-cutting at noon Saturday at the museum, 180 Thompson St.
“We’re ecstatic. It’s beyond anything we ever dreamed we could do,” said Rae Proefrock, director of the museum. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”
She said the project has grown since it was first proposed in 2009. Approximately $350,000 was spent to make the dream a reality.
“We originally anticipated having four concrete pads to put the rides up on, which meant we would have had to have taken everything down every year and store it and put it back up – so I just kept looking for grants to make permanent structures for these rides,” Proefrock said.
She said three of the four rides that will be part of Kiddieland – the pony cart ride, the kiddie helicopter and kiddie boat ride – were at Page’s Restaurant. A fourth ride, a kiddie car and fire truck ride, was donated by Sam Hummel of North Carolina.
“Multiple generations of Western New Yorkers grew up riding those rides,” Proefrock said. “So there’s even more of an attachment to them.”
But the rides also have historic value for the museum. The Allan Herschell Factory, best known for manufacturing carrousels, made the rides.
Proefrock said the museum had contacted owner Peter Page several times to inquire about the rides and was able to purchase all three after Page retired.
She said they needed a lot of work, but now have been totally restored.
“They look brand new,” she said. “It was amazing. I think we counted nearly 100 people who had something to do with this.”
Carruba Collision, of Buffalo, was one of the businesses that helped, donating 300 man-hours to sand blast, prime and paint the six antique boats in the kiddie boat ride, then pin stripe and apply special Herschell Carrousel graphics.
“We are proud to donate our services and support this wonderful organization and help preserve a unique part of not only the great history of the Niagara Frontier Region, but also an important part of American history and culture,” said Carruba Collision President Joe Carruba.
Proefrock said, “We hope people will see rides, that even though they look brand-new, they are very old rides and there’s a history to them.”
She said they are calling the area “Kiddieland Testing Park” because in the past the company would often invite neighborhood children in to test the rides before they were shipped off.
“So we basically are going to ask children to be the ‘testers’ for these rides.”
Kiddieland will be in operation from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday over Labor Day weekend and then and each Saturday and Sunday through mid-October, weather permitting. Admission to the museum is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for children, ages 2 to 16, which includes a ride token that can be used on any one of the Kiddieland rides, the 1916 Special carrousel or the 1940s kiddie carrousel. Additional ride tokens can also be purchased for 50 cents.