National Carousel Association Programs and Projects
By Brian Morgan and Bette Largent
The National Carousel Association has dual goals, to enhance the enjoyment and knowledge of the carousel, and the preservation of operating carousels.
We have been fortunate over the years that we have always found enthusiastic members willing to pitch in and work on various projects. Without them there would be nothing to report.
Here is a summary of the programs and projects provided by the NCA. Click on any item in this summary to jump to a description of that item.
NCA Preservation Fund Grants
Programs for members
Where can you go where you can have fun, be educated, and behave like a kid without feeling out of place? Why, the NCA's annual carousel convention, of course. On our conventions you meet up with people who are as crazy about carousels as you are, ride a whole bunch of carousels, and have an opportunity to learn more about your favorite hobby!
Historical articles by the experts. Photos of carousels from near and far. News! News! News!
The first quarterly issue of the Merry-Go-Roundup was in 1973, shortly after the initial meeting of a group of carousel enthusiasts that evolved into the National Carousel Association. Over the years many knowledgeable people have contributed articles, which have been responsible for a significant portion of what we have all learned about carousels. Copies of these older publications (some Xerox and some originals) are still available from our Archives. We can find the issue that contains articles or photographs about your favorite carousel.
A listing of Merry-Go-Roundup articles, listed by carousel, is available on our Website. Reproduced copies of back issues of the magazine may be purchased from the Archives.
Census of Operating Carousels Carousels to ride across the USA and Canada
In 1973 the National Carousel Association published their first census of operating carousels in the United States and Canada. This first census was prepared by Barbara Charles based upon an odyssey she made to try and find any carousel still operating. Since that time we have continued to update our census records and issue an updated printed census every fifth year. This census is mailed to all our members. Additional copies are available for sale to members and non-members. Our census is also updated regularly on our website. This online census provides a query capability, allowing carousels with specific characteristics to be located quickly.
Historic Census of Carousels Learn about the carousel your grandmother rode!
Patrick Wentzel, our census chairman, has started an exciting project, developing a complete historic census of carousels. The intent is to have a listing, with information, on all carousels we can find. Over the years we hope to validate and fill in any gaps. At present Patrick is developing a database format and entering the information from a number of different sources. Patrick would welcome information (as well as documentation and photographs) on carousels not in the current census of operating carousels.
Programs for Preservation of Operating Carousels:Save that carousel so your grandchildren can ride!
NCA Preservation Fund Grants
The NCA is dedicated to the preservation of operating carousels and has a number of tools at our disposal. First and foremost is the NCA Preservation Fund. This is funded by fundraising events at our annual conventions, and by additional donations from our members. Other funds are received from voluntary contributions and even legacies from members' wills. These funds are used for grants for the preservation and restoration of operating carousels and for related projects.
Early funds for the Preservation Fund came from the NCA Collection of carousel figures. The figures were each cast from an original carving by Jerry Reinhardt and painted by Marilyn Reinhardt. Each carving was a copy of an animal on an operating carousel. Twelve figures were created, ten horses and two menagerie figures.
Periodic Technical Assistance Conference
The NCA also developed and sponsors a Periodic Technical Assistance Conference, generally in conjunction with a Convention. For a nominal fee to cover expenses, representatives from carousels around the country get together for seminars and discussions on various topics of interest and a whole lot of networking. Topics range from the highly technical to fund raising, and even how to run a successful gift shop. A number of our members have joined us at these conferences to learn more about what makes a carousel tick.
The NCA Preservation Loan Program
The NCA Board has developed guidelines for a major loan program. We plan on accumulating a fund of approximately $1,000,000 to enable the NCA to make sizable loans to assist non-profit entities to purchase carousels which are at risk. As the loans are repaid these dollars will be used to fund loans to additional carousels. This fundraising still has a way to go. To make this happen we will need to receive grants from major foundations as well as sizable donations or commitments from our members.
In these early stages we expect that we will lend up to 30% of the cost of the carousel to a qualified non-profit or government organization, to be repaid, with interest, over three to five years. Loans will only be made where we believe the carousel has realistic plans to be able to pay off the loan within the required period. The borrower will also give the NCA a right, in perpetuity, to require that the carousel not be broken up. The aim is to help serious community conservationists to save operating carousels. Clearly this is a very ambitious program, but we believe it is worthwhile and can be achieved. We will also need careful planning to ensure that the loans are repaid and that the NCA's investment in these carousels is safeguarded.
Conservation Committee: Technical Assistance and Inquiries
The Conservation Committee is available to advise carousels around the country with regards to technical and mechanical issues. We are able to help carousels connect with experienced operators or consultants.
Charles Walker developed a series of conservation and mechanical manuals for the carousel professional while he chaired this committee. NCA representatives attend the annual IAAPA convention where our knowledge and experience is appreciated by amusement park professionals. In recent years there has been a growth of technical knowledge around the country. We invite people with hands-on experience to join our Conservation Committee.
For more information, send email to
our NCA president.
National Carousel Association's Primitive Carousel: Older than your grandmother!
In 1997 the Long Island Historical Museum tried to auction off a primitive carousel. They had it on display for a number of years, but because of its fragile condition the carousel could not be ridden. They wanted an operating carousel for their museum, so they replicated the primitive and then planned to sell the original. Fortunately it did not reach their minimum bid so it was withdrawn from the auction. The NCA had contacted them to express our interest in saving the carousel.
A deal was worked out where we got the carousel for a price equivalent to the cost of making the replica. The purchase had to be resolved quickly so it was funded by substantial donations and loans from a small group of our members and supplemented by a contribution from the NCA. One of the terms of the purchase is that the NCA can never sell the carousel. It is currently on display at the C.W. Parker carousel museum in Leavenworth, Kansas. See our online article and photos about the NCA primitive carousel.
There is also an NCA photo show availble for this carousel. See It Now!
Historic Carousel Award, Plaques, and Recognition
In 1994 the NCA instituted our Historic Carousel Award program to recognize carousels of distinction and meaning to the local community. Through 2018, 39 carousels have been recognized as Historic carousels, with a new carousel added each year. In addition, the NCA awards recognition plaques to carousels we visit during our conventions and also other deserving carousels.
Generally we find that this recognition by the NCA makes the local community more appreciative of the treasure in their midst.
Outreach and Communications: Information and Links
Many of our efforts evolve over time. With the growth of the internet we have developed our own National Carousel Association website, Carousels.org. The site has information about the NCA and our goals and also links to contact us by email or letter.
Other pages include technical information, membership applications and copies of selected articles about carousels from older Merry-Go-Roundups. The website has proved to be extremely helpful; many people who are interested in carousels are finding us through the web. We are also getting a lot of inquiries from carousel owners and enthusiasts. One of these unplanned contacts resulted in the NCA saving Mabel the kiddie Mangels carousel (see the article in the Winter 2002 issueof the Merry-Go-Roundup). We encourage our members and other interested persons to periodically visit the site and review our latest updates.
E-Newsletter (In development)
A more frequent news update (emailed to NCA members) about transient carousel related news and upcoming events. The Newsletter editor will work with the Merry-Go-RoundUp editor. The NCA is currently looking for a person interested in writing and researching the Newsletter.
The NCA stepped into the world of Facebook nearly 10 years ago and created this instant forum for carousel enthusiasts. With nearly 3,000 world-wide friends for our Facebook page, we learn and share something different and unusual about the carousel world daily. Through links to news articles and videos, our visitors can learn the latest news of the carousel world.
Working within our mission statement, we do not promote the collecting of carousel figures or components, however we do encourage sharing knowledge about the creation of carousels. Our Facebook page is available by Clicking Here. Or a simple search for the National Carousel Association Group Facebook page will bring you the most comprehensive Facebook site for carousel information.
Archives Photos and Phenomenal Facts
The National Carousel Archives date back to our inception in 1973. As members found references to carousels these were copied and sent to our archives. Later, members sent copies of photos they had taken. By now the archives are stored in 13 file cabinets and 16 shelves in two rooms at the Parker Museum in Leavenworth, Kansas, filled with photos, copies of newspaper or magazine articles, books and research information contributed by our members. The Archive group have a project in progress to develop computer databases and are cataloging all this information so that information is available when we receive inquiries. Our archivists often can be found digging through the files, searching for information to answer a question.
We also have an extensive library of books about carousels and related fields. These are available for research at the Archives. As new books are published we try and add them to our library. We thank anyone who has books and other materials they would be willing to donate. (Duplicate books received mayl be auctioned at our Conventions to raise funds for Preservation.)
We have recently received a copy of one of the rare microfilm copies of the Frederick Savage Company engineering drawings. Owing to the fragile nature of these microfilms they cannot be made available, however, Archives is in the process of printing selected sections of these images. These paper copies will be available to be reviewed only at the Archives.
Carousel Identification Services
We often get inquiries from the public about carousels and related issues. This led to the creation of our Carousel Identification Services. Generally the requests that we receive are either requests for identification of a carousel animal or other carousel related item, or a question like "whatever happened to the carousel I rode when I was a youth." Lately we have been getting more and more of those through e-mails and our website. These often result in a quick exchange of e-mails and/or a dig into various files by our small committee and our specialized consultants.
We also offer a speakers bureau. We try to match requests for speakers with local NCA members. (We do need to update our list of members who are interested in talking about carousels in their local or nearby communities.)
For more information send email to
our NCA president.
Photo Show Project
In 2004, the NCA Photo Show Project was implemented in an attempt to assemble the most complete set of carousel pictures available on the Web! This unique program allows volunteer photographers from across the country to donate their pictures and their time to create a photo presentation of their favorite carousels. And when they've finished, their shows will be made available on our website for the world to see!
Our carousel census entries have been linked with the photo shows. So when you're viewing a census entry for which there is a photo show, a single click of the mouse will allow you to visit the carousel online!
In January 2019 we posted our 8,000th Photo!
Again, the National Carousel Association is excited about all our programs and projects. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with your help, the NCA's goal of preserving carousels will be accomplished.