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The Carousel @ Downtown

Where Do Carousels Come From?
The Carousel at Downtown at the Gardens was manufactured by Carousel Works, the world’s largest maker of wooden carousels. This carousel is a one-of-a-kind design that was custom created to fit with the fun, tropical atmosphere of Downtown at the Gardens. More than 35 people took part in the creation of the carousel led by Carol Berman and Landscape Architect H. Paul Davis. Each element of the carousel was individually selected to reflect South Florida’s wildlife. This carousel was hand designed for everyone in the community to enjoy, both young and old as well as those in wheelchairs.

Carving the Menagerie
The figures on a carousel are known as the “menagerie.” This carousel’s menagerie includes 27 creatures. They all started as blocks of wood. Each wood block was made by gluing about 60 pieces of wood together. The limbs of each creature were carved separately, sanded and then joined together to create the final animal. The menagerie was created by the Master Carvers at Carousel Works. Each creature in the menagerie took anywhere from three days to three weeks to carve. The more legs, feathers and small details an animal has, the longer it took to create it.

Painting the Menagerie
Once the figures on the carousel were carved, they were then ready to be painted. Painting the figures on the carousel was not an easy job. Each figure was designed to look like the bird or animal it represents in real life. The painters had wildlife photographs of the figure they were painting so they could make sure the colors and details were as close to real life as possible. Which figure do you think looks the most real? Because the carousel is outside, the painters had to use special paint and varnish that will stay strong and colorful even in Florida’s heat and humidity.

Building the Carousel
Once the parts for the carousel were ready and the menagerie was done, a team from Carousel Works drove from their factory in Mansfield, Ohio to Downtown at the Gardens to assemble the carousel. A lot of different people were needed to put the carousel together including artists, woodworkers, electricians and mechanics. While everyone was working hard building the carousel, we asked the local community to help us name the figures in the menagerie. You’ll see the names of each figure written on their sides. The carousel opened on November 26, 2010.

How Does the Carousel Work?
The carousel weighs about 30,000 pounds and operates on a system of gears. Even though the carousel platform is very heavy, the floor or platform of the carousel is actually floating on center support beams which keep it suspended. The support beams must be very strong to hold up the carousel. You could put 10 African elephants on the carousel’s platform and the support beams would not break! The figures on the carousel move up and down using a system of gears that go into action when the carousel starts moving.

Florida In Pictures
This carousel was designed to be completely Florida themed. Many different artists worked together to paint the figures and the murals on the carousel. The murals show the abundance of life in Florida’s natural habitats, from under the sea, all the way up to the sky. Maryland-based artist Carol Berman researched Florida’s native flowers and created the eight original paintings on the center surround of the carousel. Look at the top of the carousel and you will see scenes from Palm Beach County’s history in each of the oranges.

Carousel of the Future
Many different environmentally friendly features are built into the carousel. The 396 lights on the carousel are LED lights. When they are turned on, the lights use about the same amount of energy as you use turning on your hair dryer in the morning. Even though the carousel is big, it only takes a five horse-power motor to run it. The carousel can run an entire day on the same amount of electricity needed to run one load of laundry through your dryer. While many of today’s carousels are made from fiberglass, this carousel is made from wood. Wood is a much more eco-friendly material and can last five times longer than fiberglass in climates like Florida’s.

Hours of Operation: Sunday-Thursday: 10am-8pm & Friday and Saturday, 10am-9pm.