Late at night after all the guests have left Miller Park Zoo and keepers have finished their rounds and gone home the fourteen animals that reside on the carousel watch over the zoo. By day, they provide a revolving view for kids and young-at-heart adults who love to ride. By night, they stop going around, the music ends, the light go off and until morning the carousel animals stand guard over the zoo.
Platform carousels were developed in the mid-19th century. Carousels have been known as merry-go-rounds, hurdy-gurdies, roundabouts, gallopers, horseabouts, horse tornados, and flying horses. The revolving circular platform can have seats, wooden horse, and other animals. Animals may be stationary or move up and down to music.
The first carousel at Miller Park arrived in 1945. It is unclear how many there have been since then, but the current has been in use for quite some time. When the animals are showing wear and tear volunteers repaint them and they are once again a bright spot in the center of the zoo. This year, the carousel is scheduled to have the canopy on top replaced.
FUN FACT: In North America and Mainland Europe, carousels turn counterclockwise while in Japan, they turn clockwise.
From the end of March till end of October the carousel is operated by Miller Park Zoo staff and volunteers. Once a year during the Wild Lights celebration in December, guests can ride at night surrounded by the lights and music of the carousel.
When children take their first ride, they are wide-eyed with excitement. Even the cautious ones end up not wanting the ride to end.
The carousel has many fans who return again and again. One grandfather regularly buys five tickets for his three-year old grandson who presents all the tickets and rides five time in a row. He always rides the same five animals in the same order. Years from now that child will remember his trips with his grandfather to the carousel at Miller Park Zoo.
The giraffe is the most popular animal. The camel and the tiger are stationary and do not move up and down. There is also a bench seat for those who more cautious and a dinosaur or two for prehistoric fans. Tickets are $1.75. Children under age 3 ride for free and must be accompanied by an adult who does not need a ticket.
Each year the carousel generates between $2,000 and $15,000 in revenue for the Zoo. Some of that money is designated for Miller Park Zoo’s Conservation Fund. This Fund benefits a variety of Zoo projects, including the pollinator garden and bee exhibits.
For 77 years since the first carousel arrived, guest have not just walked around the zoo. They have selected their favorite animal, climbed aboard, ridden around and around under the sparkling lights, listing to the music, and watching the zoo go by. It is a ride not to be missed.