Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Carousel marries old, new to mark 250,000th rider

Barbara Straight of Kennewick reaches for a ring while riding the Beston Carousel sold to South Africa of Dreams last September during the All Senior Picnic at the Southridge Sports and Events Complex in Kennewick. The carousel is expected to have its 250,000th rider sometime late next week. Tri-City Herald file

Sometime next week, one lucky rider of the Gesa Carousel of Dreams will get more than a memorable adventure.

The carousel will welcome its 250,000th rider late in the week with a gift basket from Country Mercantile and a new iPad. Click this link.

Parker Hodge, executive director, said it’s impossible to determine exactly when the 250,000th rider will arrive, but he predicts it will happen sometime Friday afternoon, Feb. 26, given current attendance levels.

The carousel debuted over the Labor Day weekend in 2014 after more than a decade of preparation. It is the centerpiece for an entertainment venue with party rooms and a kitchen at 2901 Southridge Blvd.

Ridership is stronger than originally anticipated, Hodge said. It averages between 1,800 and 2,500 riders per weekend with numbers rising for special events. Its New Years celebration featuring reindeer attracted 5,800.

With nearly 18 months of operations behind it, carousel revenue covers expenses, as well as the cost to service debt on the short-term loan it took out to get the venue open. As of this week, the balance on the $354,000 loan stood at $26,000.


Once it is debt-free, the carousel board will channel its excess revenue into a fund to preserve its antique horses and into an endowment.

The carousel employs four and is staffed by a team of 38 volunteer ambassadors.

The 1910 carousel was built for Silver Beach Amusement Park in St. Joseph, Mich. by the Fred Dolle Company with horses carved by Charles Carmel. When the park closed in 1971, the carousel was dismantled and saved in storage by enthusiast Marianne Stevens.

The Three Rivers Carousel Foundation purchased it in 2003 and spent more than a decade working to develop the $4 million project into a Tri-City landmark. It features 45 horses, three chariots and other features. Gesa Credit Union provided $1 million for the project. Toyota of Tri-Cities is contributing $500,000 and Baker Produce $300,000.

The city of Kennewick leases the site to the carousel for $1 a year.

Carousel hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, go to gesacarouselofdreams.com.

Read more here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/article61246012.html#storylink=cpy.

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