For the first time, the Burlington Carousel Festival took place this weekend without its main attraction.
The three-row Dentzel Menagerie Carousel dates back to the start of the 20th century. And it had been almost 35 years since the carousel was last restored. It is currently undergoing repairs and refurbishment at Carousels and Carvings, Inc. in Ohio.
John Vernon works with the Office of Public Information for the City of Burlington. Even though the carousel was missing from this weekend’s festivities, Vernon made sure its memory lived on at his archive recording booth.
“We're recording people's memories about the carousel. And we've gotten a lot of different generations of people talking about what it's meant to have the carousel in Burlington and how it's meant to go from one generation to the next grandparents. I've even had someone who was a great grandparent taking their grandchild here, who rode as a child.”
Kiwanis Burlington Vice President Tom Neal grew up riding the carousel. For the past 12 years, he has sold food at the festival on behalf of Kiwanis.
“We just thoroughly enjoy being here each year. And it is a money maker for our club,” Neal said.
According to Neal, the festival is beneficial to more than just vendors. “We have great crowds every year and I think you ought to just see what's around Burlington. It helps, especially for new people, people to learn what we have here to offer 365 days a year.”
Vernon admitted to having some unhappy festival attendees this year because of the missing carousel. “We had obviously the little children now who are really angry that it's not here now. I've been scolded a couple of times.”
But festival first-timers like Sharon Beal were thrilled by the community event, despite the carousel being in repair. “I'm amazed how many people are here. It's well attended and I’m just enjoying the festivities, and the music, and the food,” Beal said.
Festival-happenings included food trucks, an interactive playground, an art tent, rides, and two stages with live music.
The carousel is due to return to City Park in the spring of 2021. The “Carousel Archive” Vernon recorded at his audio booth will be available on the city’s website in coming days.