Carousel of Happiness
Fort Collins, Colo.
Having read about the Carousel of Happiness being put together in Nederland, a small town in the mountains of Colorado, I wanted to meet the man behind it. When friends from Illinois came to visit, I had the perfect excuse to make the trip. A call to meet Scott Harrison for an interview was met with an enthusiastic “Yes, I can meet you at my warehouse at 10:30 Monday morning.”
We stopped at the Rock Shop where Scott works three days a week to ask for directions. Suzanne told us how to find it, and described Scott as one who brings out happy thoughts in all who meet him.
Right on time, Scott drove up to meet us. He welcomed the four of us with a smile and firm handshake. Ushering us into the huge warehouse that once housed mining equipment, he began to tell all about his project.
Scott was a Marine machine gunner in Vietnam. “It was either sheer terror or boredom. To calm me during a lull in the fighting I listened to Chopin being played in a music box sent to me by my sister and thought of carousels in a mountain meadow,” he said.
He and his wife Ellen Moore worked together on different aspects of the same project for Amnesty International U.S.A. for more than 30 years. As director of its Urgent Action Network, Scott fielded stories of torture and political prisoners, and to relieve the stress, he carved. Ellen found relaxation with gardening and traveling. She is looking forward to joining Scott in hosting folks at the Carousel of Happiness. (COH)
In 1986 Scott found the skeleton of a 1910 carousel that had been built by Charles Looff who built our country’s first merry-go-round at Coney Island, New York, in 1876. Loof delivered it to Saltair Park near Salt Lake City, Utah, where it operated until 1959 when the park went bankrupt. It was moved to the Utah State Training School, where the residents enjoyed it for another 27 years until it was sold to a woman who just wanted the exquisite horses. Scott purchased what was left of the infrastructure and took it home to his warehouse in Nederland. Wanting to keep his repairs as authentic as possible, he replaced the rotted floor with Southern Yellow Pine that he got from the Seagram’s Whiskey distillery in Peoria, Illinois, when it closed in 1990. The 7-foot lengths that were used for cribbing when the distillery was built in 1890 were perfect for the floor. Scott used White Ash on the outside edge. There are 18 sections to the carousel, four of which Scott had to re-do.
In spite of working full time and having no formal training in carving, Scott’s menagerie is historically correct. He uses 2-inch thick bars of Basswood 8 inches to 16 inches wide. He glues and clamps without the use of nails. He has glued the pieces so perfectly that the animals seem to have been carved from one piece of wood. “For 10 years I used oil based paint, but switched to acrylic which I coat with a clear sealer. It works well, and I like being able to wash up with water,” he said.
Scott’s friend George Blevins, a cartoonist for the local Mountain Ear newspaper, was happy to draw pictures of animals for him to use as patterns while he carved. He has finished 36 riding animals that include an elephant, lynx, Longhorn steer, moose, zebra, frog, camel, peacock, pig, alpaca, donkey, a gorilla on a bench that is wheelchair accessible, a kangaroo, and a horse. There are 22 other animals that will be stationary. He has carved geese for the 18 sections around the top that have flip book type animations that will be delightful to watch.
Edwin Friedman, a Denver artist has restored 18 rounding board paintings that were done in 1910 by August Wolfinger, known as the Michelangelo of the Midway.
Ten years ago, Scott saw a delightful 3-year-old girl dancing at a fair; seemingly oblivious to the fact that she had club feet. Scott took her picture and used that as a pattern to carve a little girl in a red dress that will stand on the top of the merry-go-round, orchestrating all of the action. The girl, now 13, has recently visited from Switzerland, giving Nederland another reason to celebrate.
Twelve years ago Scott found a 1915 Wurlitzer calliope in Buffalo, New York. The organ has 12 player rolls with 88 instruments that start to play when the carousel begins to turn. It will be encased in a glass cube to keep out the infamous moths that often invade Colorado in June, and to cut down on the noise level.
“Go outside and I will turn on the calliope; it is too loud to be inside with it,” said Scott. As the music started, we all broke out in laughter and were transported in our minds back to the time long ago when we climbed onto an exquisite horse and the carousel began to turn.
Work has begun on the foundation for the 12-sided building that will house the carousel on land donated by Will Guercio near two historic railroad cars in the center of town. An attached gift shop will showcase artists from the region and the world. A mezzanine connecting the two buildings will provide a cozy spot to read and there will be space for special gatherings such as birthday parties. The goal is to have it completed by the summer of 2009. To make his mission of helping children in need come to fruition, Scott has set up a board of directors and a non-profit organization, to which he has donated the complete carousel and calliope. The organization has raised $390,000 toward the needed $588,000 for the building fund. Your help is needed to get the building done. Tax deductible donations can be sent to P.O. Box 1811, Nederland, Colo., 80466. A colorful cloth Carousel of Happiness patch will be sent to all who give. Those who give large donations will be honored in special ways.
We feel privileged to have this personable man, whose life experiences have given him the desire to provide happiness to others, spend time with us. His project has become dear to the hearts of his family, friends and all who have watched it grow.
There will be a celebration in Nederland when the Carousel of Happiness begins to turn, the calliope begins to play and wide-eyed children line up to choose which animal to ride. Handing over the dollar for the ticket will be the start of a memorable day.
Scott is happy to show the animals and carousel mechanism to those interested in the progress. Please call (303) 258-9246 to set a time to meet him at his warehouse. You can Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please go to http://www.carouselofhappiness.org.