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Archive for September 23rd, 2010

viewofcarousel

The carousel in Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, New York celebrated its 100th year in 2010. The historic carousel was created by master carver Marcus Illions in 1910 and thrilled youngsters for many years before reaching a roadblock in 1983. Kaydeross Amusement Park, where the carousel was most recently situated, was to be sold for development, and the historic carousel would likely be lost to Saratoga Springs.

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Saratoga Springs citizens and merchants raised money to purchase the carousel and after their bid of $150,000 was accepted, the carousel was relocated to Congress Park in the middle of town. Repairs were undertaken and the newly renovated ride, with rejuvenated horses replete with horsehair tails, reopened in 2002. The carousel is now beautifully protected by an attractive enclosure that allows visitors to admire the prancing ponies even on their off-season when the horses are still.

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After a summer of daily activity, the carousel horses were taking a well-earned rest when we visited. The carousel is one of just 6 remaining Illions machines and the only two-row Illions carousel in existence.

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Marcus C. Illions was born in Lithuania in 1871 and began his apprenticeship as a woodcarver at the age of 8. Illions first carved carousel horses in England and then carved for Charles Looff in Brooklyn after he emigrated to America at the end of the 19th century. He formed his own company in 1909. Illions is regarded as one of the greatest artists of the carousel world. His horses are known for their very flamboyant heads and well-decorated bodies.

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The work of Illions and others who used a similar approach is called the Coney Island Style. The carved animals were spectacular, and originally featured brilliant decorations of jewels and gold and silver-leaf. Other carousel styles include the Philadelphia style, which featured more naturalistic horses and menagerie animals, and the North Tonawanda style, which featured simpler, country-fair horse.

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Illions was admired for his ability to imbue his horses with movement even when they were standing still. With flying manes and tails and flaring nostrils, they gallop on.

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