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A child's carousel ride brings back memories

While our daughter's family planned a trip to Buffalo, I researched activities for our toddler granddaughter. An advertisement for Olcott Beach Carousel Park ,"a vintage Kiddy Park," caught my eye and sounded intriguing.

I learned our granddaughter loves to ride carousels. Obviously we had to visit Olcott Beach. When I told our daughter it offered free parking and 25 rides, she thought I was joking.

None of us realized we adults, too, would ride -- down Memory Lane. As I watched our favorite little person "drive" around and around on the Kiddy Car/Fire Truck ride, I remembered going on one just like it. Our granddaughter rang the bell on her car. After the woman who controlled the ride told her what a good job she did, she rang that bell more enthusiastically each time she neared the ride operator.

That ride I remembered could have been this very one. The cars looked familiar.

Many summers members of my mother's family rented a cottage at Olcott Beach, where the entire family gathered for picnics and fun. The present ride at the Olcott Beach amusement had come from the defunct Olcott New Rialto Park.

Meanwhile, our daughter reminisced about riding the Kiddy Ferris Wheel presently at Olcott Beach. Originally it had amused children at the Niagara Falls hot dog stand, the Whistle Pig. On each trip to Artpark, we stopped at the Whistle Pig so our children could enjoy the rides. As she watched it spin in its present location, our daughter grew nostalgic.

What fun watching the children's delight when the carousel started up! It occupies a restored roundhouse where once stood a 1920s-style Herschell carousel that operated from the 1940s until the 1980s. That one had more room for riders than the 1928 Herschell-Spillman carousel that now occupies the roundhouse. Horses go up and down while the ponies do not. Each has a sponsor's name above.

Our daughter rode with her daughter twice on that Herschell-Spillman. Did I mention how much our two-year-old enjoys carousel rides? Park rules require any child less than 5 years old be accompanied by an adult on the carousel. Children ride unaccompanied on the other rides in the park and must be under 52 inches tall.

Just outside the roundhouse sits a 1931 Wurlitzer band organ. We heard its joyful music the moment we stepped into the parking lot. What a delight to find so many Western New York connections! Real mahogany wooden boats take the children up and down through imaginary water. Fighter jets zoom in the air where one child can "fly" the plane and another act as gunner, facing backwards. A little girl "gunner" in front of our granddaughter laughed with her as they made faces and pointed at one another. The rocket swing ride was also a big hit with our young visitor.

Our son-in-law liked that all the rides at this amusement park are tailored for young children. Too often when they are home in California, our granddaughter is judged too little for rides. That's disappointing to a child.

We were all impressed that this wonderful place has been lovingly restored, operated and maintained by volunteers and is a not-for-profit corporation. Thanks to all those who helped raise funds, built the pavilions that cover four of the rides and continue to work at the park, our family had a wonderful time at Olcott Beach.

As for our granddaughter, we had to tell her the horsies had to go "night-night" so we could get her back to the car.

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Sandy McPherson Carrubba of Kenmore appreciates the joy a local carousel brought to her family.

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