July 25th National Merry-Go-Round Day

Who of us hasn’t ridden a Merry-Go-Round at some time in our lives? The horses bobbing up and down as we go in a never-ending circle to nowhere but enjoy every second of getting there. The brightly colored animals, the lights, and that carousel of music that we seem to hum to ourselves for the rest of the day.

Did you know that the merry-go-round is actually one of the oldest rides in the world, if not the oldest. The first known merry-go-round discovered was in 500 AD in the Byzantine Empire. Baskets were attached to a metal or wooden pole that spun them around in a small circle. No where near as fancy as the first one ever built in the United States by Franz Wiesenoffer in Hessville, Ohio sometime in the 1840’s.

William Schneider of Davenport, Iowa was able to secure the first patent on a carousel  in 1871. From there the attraction has gone on to appear in nearly every circus, carnival, and side-show ever to open its gates. Even Disney theme parks contain merry-go-rounds, but only for princes and princesses naturally.

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The horse is nearly always the focus of the merry-go-round. These horses are called gallopers, jumpers, horseabout, flying horses, and roundabouts. Words, for the most part, only found in carousel corrals. However not all merry-go-rounds are horses.

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A variety of animals are beginning to appear across the carousel world. Tigers seem very popular, giraffes are begin to appear, and even a few creatures that we aren’t sure exactly what they are…

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Compared to these elaborate modern day versions, the original merry-go-round was very simple. It was people powered and could go as fast as the people that pushed it could go and were often found on playgrounds.

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Merry-go-rounds  aren’t found much in city parks anymore like they use to be. They have gone the way of swing sets and teeter-totters. Somehow society has found these too dangerous to allow children to play with anymore. Instead we give them rock climbing walls, little battery operated cars of their own, and giant spiderwebs. Really?  Who is kidding who here?

I will never forget getting on the merry-go-round and pretending like I was in the old west or one of King Arthur’s Knights (in fact, I still do when I can!) and letting my imagination run wild. In the land of make believe, it truly is a small world after all.

How to celebrate – Find an old photo of yourself on a merry-go-round to show your kids. Go on a carousel yourself!  Even though you are all grown up now doesn’t mean you can’t still dream. Defy conventional wisdom and treat your kid to a well deserved ride on a merry-go-round, if you can find one.

 

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