I Can Almost Hear the Calliope . . .

I-59 Meridian, Mississippi Welcome Center


What a welcome site for a weary traveler.  Clean restrooms, pleasant and helpful staff; a hot cup of coffee, a map to help find one’s way to their final destination, and a wonderful display of tourism artifacts.

I’m speaking of the Meridian, Mississippi Welcome Center on I-59 southbound, and a colorful carousel horse that adorns the lobby area.  Not only is the horse beautiful, but it is steeped in tradition, going all the way back to 1896 when Gustav Dentzel, a young German immigrant, manufactured it for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition.

Carousel Horse seen in the I-59 Meridian, Mississippi Welcome Center

The carousel was sold to the city of Meridian in 1904, and the Highland Park Dentzel Carousel eventually arrived in 1909.  It has stayed in its same location since that time.  Its ‘house’ the only remaining carousel building, built from a Dentzel blueprint, along with the Dentzel Carousel, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and in 1986, they were designated National Landmarks; an honor bestowed on only 11 carousels nationwide.

Carousel’s and tourism go hand-in-hand, and if you visit Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Cooledge Park, you could  ride a beautifully restored antique, ‘Jenny’ with many unique animals.  Fact is, if you wanted to learn this art form, you could do so at The Horsin’ Around Carousel Carving School, located in Soddy Daisy (near Chattanooga); which, by the way, is the only school of its kind in the entire country.

Double-Decker Carousel in San Francisco - Flickr photo by Tony the Misfit

Maybe you had a double-decker in mind?  We’re not talking of two all beef patties, sesame seed bun, hold the onions please.  We’re speaking of 1800 twinkling LED lights and two stories of 32 animals, including sea lions and dragons, dolphins, and Panda Bears, as well as colorful horses on the, handcrafted in Italy, carousel sitting on Pier 39 in San Francisco.  Or, you might want to check out the Paragon Carousel, still operating at Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts.  This past May, this popular attraction won a $100,000 grant from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Paragon Carousel - Flickr photo by
Lower Central Park - Flickr photo by david_shankbone

I can’t think of a person, even as an adult, that didn’t enjoy a ride, as a youngster, on a carousel.  Piped organ music, flashing lights mirrored at all angles, horses in glistening black and angel white, or Palomino’s that look like they could easily gallop off their platform were all part of the thrill.  These beautiful, artistic venues of entertainment numbered in the thousands at one time in North American alone.  Today there are about 350, including the six in New York with four classified as vintage, such as the Friedsam Memorial Carousel in Central Park and the Mueller Carousel in Queens Forest Park.  Why not visit this site:  www.nycgovparks.org/sub_about/parks_history/carousels.html

Carousels could easily be termed tourism at every turn . . . . and, to get the history of the carousel, you might want to log onto: http://www.fantasyislandpark.com/carousel/history2.htm


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