The Carousel

by Nicole Lalime

The sound is hard to miss on Jewell Street in downtown Hartford; a Wurlitzer band organ booms inside the 24-sided pavilion as a dizzying array of horses rise and fall to its cadence. Even on a brisk October afternoon, children flock to the carousel thoroughly eyeing each horse for the ideal ride. Maybe the carousel's lead horse--a large, white beast adorned with a fine blue ribbon--suits one child's fancy, while the row of wild horses with western saddles, rope and feathers draped across their backs, draws the attention of a young cowboy. The children burst through the gates and race to their horse of choice; the slow spinning begins and the children whirl past, lights blur.

Bushnell Park is home to one of only seventeen carousels crafted by Russian immigrants Harry Goldstein and Solomon Stein. Carvers of women's combs in Russia, the two men moved to New York to work on carousels for Coney Island. They eventually teamed up to open the Artistic Carousel Company of Brooklyn, New York, where they crafted seventeen fully operating carousels in their career together. Only three of those seventeen are still fully intact and in operation, making the carousel at Bushnell Park a true rarity. Together, the contrast between the simple, wooden pavilion and the elaborate decadence of the carousel allows the intricacies of each horse to stand out. Their large, bulbous eyes, bared teeth, and wild disposition are typical of the Coney Island Style, along with the fat roses that drape across the horses' backs.

The Knox Foundation brought these meticulously crafted horses to Hartford in 1974 in an attempt to restore and develop the city's downtown. The carousel stood as a symbol of hope, a place where families could escape the rawer aspects of the city and enjoy one of life's simplest pleasures. Today, it remains one of Hartford's most iconic destinations.

When the ride begins to slow, the music, like a wind-up toy, continues to hit the notes at a dawdling rate before stopping completely. It becomes near silent for a moment; the carousel conductor rings the bell three times, signifying the ride's end. When the children jump off their perches, the sound of their tapping feet bounces against the walls.

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