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10 Village Carousel Projects


Community carousels are William H. Dentzel's passion, for the joy and empowerment of children.  These are simple menagerie carousels built in the "flying horses" tradition (see Watch Hill, RI).  The carousel can be built on your site or delivered finished and ready to operate or paint ready for your local painting program. You or your group can sponsor a carousel for any place there are children and families to enjoy it.

4 examples how a project has happened:
A.) F.I.O.S.C.E.R. of Chiapas funded a project in San Cristobal Las Casas and Ochusjop, Mexico.
B.) The Port Townsend Sister City Association delivered the parts and assembled one in Jalapa, Nicaragua.
C.) A private business, Lenny and Joe’s Fishtale Drive-In of Madison, CT put one in their outdoor dining area.
D.) The Davis Educational Foundation of California put one in their town central park.

Review the range of menagerie animals offered; you will be involved with the animal selection with a Dentzel carousel. Check some of the animal possibilities offered.

Open up to the fun of a Village "Flying-Horses" Carousel, simpler than the galloping or platform type carousel; this carousel does not have a standing platform or overhead cranking arms.  The animals and chariot hang on poles and are supported in the rear by a chain.  The animal with rider flies out as the carousel turns (the physics of this actually make the rider more secure on a "flying horse" than the animal of a galloping platform carousel where the animal is held upright and the rider naturally flies outward). The brass ring catching game with the clown face target are important standard components of a Village Carousel.

Under a pavilion is the safest place for a carousel, protected from the wind and rain. This is not a free standing ride for random use, a designated operator must be present when the ride is open.  The operator or assistant will manage the rings for the ring catching game (fun and easy for responsible youths). A low, crowd-control, fence with a gate surrounds the carousel keeping riders and viewers apart.

Select how you want to participate in getting a Village Carousel ready to ride: younger people can participate by stenciling and painting the scenic panels or animals; older people might be able to do animal construction or mechanism fabrication.  Every project is a unique combination of on-site-made and workshop-made components as well as basic construction.

Envision your project, a durable and beautiful carousel can be made for any place on our planet where there are children. The Dentzel workshop is located in Port Townsend, Washington, although a Village Carousel Project can happen anywhere (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico currently under consideration for a new shop).

Lenny and Joes carousel has donated all of its procedes to charity programs and paid for itself numerous times. Since 1981 there have been ten Village Carousel Projects, in four states (WA, CA, TN, CT) and three countries (Mexico, Nicaragua, USA).  Some of these have their own websites; see the carousel census for details. Cost is from $5,000 to $80,000. depending on your help and choices.

Simple scheduled maintenance will assure your carousel lasts a lifetime or longer. The construction and installation process takes from 4 to 12 months. Adults as well as children can ride the carousel. The carousel is 20 feet in diameter, 12 feet tall, carries 15 riders on 8 animals, 1 chariot, and 5 swing seats.


10. Wooden Centerpole "Flying Horses" Carousel no longer available.  Sold July 2017 Possibly the last carousel to be made in the 5th generation Dentzel carousel workshop. Built in Port Townsend WA over a 15 year period.

Perfect for your town or village: wooden centerpole, sweeps, animals, chariot, swing seats, ring catching game, operates by hand and can easily be up-graded, carries a total of 15 riders, 2 on chariot, 8 on animals and 5 more on swing seats. In storage building near Dentzel workshop yard, see "Flying Horses" Mechanism For Sale .
A traditional design ready for animals, scenic panels, all types of power, and a home.

Several menagerie animals and a chariot are on this mechanism as well as spaces for five swing seats, buyer can also choose or make two more animals. Light weight scenic panels and other decorative panels are included, these work fine and can be used to make heavier panels at a later date. This new but old style carousel is 20 feet in diameter and 12 feet tall, it carries 10 to 15 riders. It must have 24 to 36 foot diameter pavilion to protect from weather. The sturdy design will last indefinitely, very low maintainence. View or Print this document for details.

*110 AC electric, foot-pedal, or hand-crank.

9.  Lenny and Joe's Fishtale Drive-In, Madison, Connecticut

A family and community in New England using the carousel to raise money for local charities.

Either Lenny or Joe discovered the original Dentzel carousel website in 1997 and saw the possibility of adding a nice little carousel to their very popular Long Island Sound fish restaurant campus.  Of course, as always, periods of wait and consideration had to run their course until late 1998 when one of these wonderful and industrious restaurateur brothers made the call to order a carousel.  This put the design and building process at the Port Townsend Dentzel workshop into the production mode; steel fittings, centerpole, animals, lobster chariot, hippocampus, 110 volt electric motor drive-train, scenic panels, lights, were now moving through various lists and work stations.  Fortunately Lenny and Joe chose to use several animals which were in inventory which relieved some of the pressure to get the carousel up and running in Madison by Memorial Day 1999, only months away.

After a winter and spring of carousel construction Bill invited Michael Levine, a local Port Townsend astronaut, to be his co-pilot in the big ugly (1978 E250) van and utility trailer rig filled with animals, mechanism, and scenics plus the painting program kit.  The drive from Port Townsend to Madison was close to 3000 miles, which included a snow storm in Wyoming and a touch of Paradise at Jim and Jane's southeast Iowa wilderness hangout.  Jim Spring, a well known bird artist, took up the offer to follow along to Madison CT to paint the shields (with local bird species of course).  Arriving in Madison, Lenny and Joe generously put us all up at the centuries old Dolly Madison Inn.  Here all of the halls and floors were crooked and the ceilings easy to touch with your hands over head even for short people.  The lobby was actually a very well stocked Yankee bar at least 100 years old, right on the other side of the entry foyer was a comfortable family style gourmet restaurant.  The most we ever used this area was for the big Sunday breakfast, otherwise Lenny and Joe gave the carousel crew a free meal ticket at their fish drive-in, this is a first class drive-in with a big menu.

Four weeks of assembly and painting burned up most of the energy gained by the big Long Island Sound fish meals served at the drive-in (scrod fish and chips, Rhode Island clam chowder, soft shell crab, coleslaw, onion rings, baked potatoes, lemonade).  Local carousel expert painter and historian Donna Woolcott, a friend of Lenny and Joe's, was keen to join in on the assembly and painting project taking place at the little restaurant park.  Donna meticulously went over all of the animals, and continued to do so for years afterward, to give them their truly magical glow.  Kids and seniors helped paint the carousel's scenic panels, Jim did beautiful local wildlife birds on the shields, and Bonnie and Steve drove out from McMinnville, TN to help paint the animals.  Bill had to make a small but difficult modification to one of the carousel drive parts, fortunately the new heavy duty rollers needed were available nearby in New Haven.  Both ring catchers were set-up, the standard one on the outside row and one for the inside row, this is probably the only carousel in the world that has an inside row ring catcher, Lenny and Joe truly believe in fairness.  A great party  was made for the opening day, Bill hung around to iron-out some small details, everyone went home, the party was over.  Since 1999 Lenny and Joe's Magical Fishtale Charity Carousel has raised over $900,000 through ride ticket sales, all of the money goes to local charity programs.

8.  Handcrank/110 Electric Carousel, for sale $35,000. see For Sale Rides (located in P.T. WA), Used at Wood Boat Festival 1998 and 2012-2016, 2005-2011 DC Solar Powered at the Solar Living Institute, Hopland, California

This is a 15 rider portable, foldable steel centerpole, carousel on a trailer base. Even though this carousel was not completed and installed until May 2005 at it's first long term public location, it was conceived the same time as MGR #7 below and began turning in 1996-1997. It ran at the Port Townsend Wood Boat Festival in 1998 and also was set-up on the grounds of the local primary and elementary schools where it was accompanied by classroom presentations of carousel art, design, and history.  From May 2005 to September 2011 it operated on solar electricity from PV cells at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland CA, in Mendocino County on US-101 halfway between Port Townsend and Santa Barbara. In 2012 this carousel was completely restored and up-graded to the latest carousel technologies and styling in the Dentzel Carousel Company headquarter's workshops in Port Townsend WA. It now runs smoothly and easily on either hand-crank power or simple plug-in 110 volt electricity. The second weekend of September 2012 it had an excellent four day run at the Port Townsend Wood Boat Festival. It has also run again at the 2013 - 2016 Wood Boat Festivals.

7.  Bonnie and Steve Davis, McMinnville, Tennessee

Hand-cranked menagerie in the heartland of America.

Bonnie Davis saw a newspaper article on Bill Dentzel's people powered carousels and decided to give him a call in 1995.  She had an idea to operate a portable carousel at various fairs and festivals happening throughout the year in her Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee.  With the help of Steve Taylor of Mobil Logic, Bill designed and built the 20' diameter, 10 rider, portable carousel mechanism.  Squeezing in a carousel project, while continuing the more bread and butter task of house carpentry, could only happen with more help, so Steve Arment of Enterprise, Oregon was contacted to make the eight animals plus one extra for display, Bill would make the swan chariot, all of the component parts, hardware and scenic panels.

By late spring 1996 the carousel was ready, this was after its beginning in Port Townsend and completion in Carpinteria, CA.  Because Bonnie and Steve were professional sign painters they wanted to paint the whole carousel themselves to save some money and have some special fun, this expedited the project.  With white primered animals loaded into the small Datsun pick-up and the mechanism trailing behind, Zaryn, 12 years old, and Bill drove out to New Mexico to meet Bonnie and Steve at the halfway point between Carpinteria and McMinneville, Tucumcari NM.  At home Bonnie and Steve painted the animals and scenic panels and put on their own special touches.  Soon they were operating it at venues throughout the Cumberland region and continue to do so today.

6.  Waveland, Mississippi Receives Carousel from the Port Townsend Carousel Association

Hands-on at all levels and ages, a community carousel with a new home in Mississippi.

In 1991, after the wonderful experience working with the kids at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Bill Dentzel ran the idea by Jim Toyne, the high school vocational shop instructor, and Bob Alford, the district superintendent, of building a similar carousel in the Port Townsend high school shop; both were solidly behind the project.  Still, funds for materials and classroom assistant time had to be raised and many other details worked out, most crucial of which came to be the location of a site to set it up.

The idea itself was initiated in 1984 when the Port Townsend Carousel Association was founded, but it wasn't until 1991 that the "build it in the school" plan was devised.  Still, as other projects regularly slipped ahead in line, it took until 1995 to complete this wooden centerpole carousel mechanism which has six animals and two double chariots.  During construction it was set-up to run at the Wooden Boat Festival more than once.  With Bill Dentzel's guidance, students in the Port Townsend schools made and painted the whole carousel.

The Port Townsend Carousel Association was unable to secure a permanent installation site in Port Townsend or Jefferson County and sadly the carousel parts spent silent years in a storage shed. Then the opportunity arose for the Port Townsend Carousel Association to donate the Carousel of the Olympic Sea to the city of Waveland, Mississippi as part of a local effort to help with the hurricane Katrina reconstruction in the Gulf Coast.  The citizens of Waveland were excited to have this carousel, coincidentally there is an antique Dentzel carousel further north in Meridian, Mississippi. Although it took quite a while, with an oil spill and another hurricane happening in the midst of the reconstruction, they located a space late 2012 and began to look seriously into getting this historical carousel set-up.

Late April 2013 Mike and Jennifer Kopke arranged for Bill Dentzel, the carousel's designer and lead builder, to make a visit to Waveland and show its new owners how to set up and operate it.  After an amazing four days and the help of many Wavelanders the carousel was erected in the historic old Waveland school house which had withstood the nastiest of hurricans for many decades. The ride was celebrated and enjoyed by a band of adults and one grandchild. Soon it will be prepared for general public use with the low perimeter control fencing and a brass ring catching game. This is a major step forward in re-establishing Waveland as one of the most attractive and pleasant small towns on the Gulf Coast. See these photos for more details on this wonderful community event and project; one, two, three. Check out this Ground Zero Museum web page for details.

5.  Davis Educational Foundation, Davis, California

Community, children, and carousel for school funding in Davis's Central Park.

John Yates was visiting Sausalito in 1994 when he saw the foot-pedal powered carousel at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.  He was a founder and member of the Davis Educational Foundation, local citizens dedicated to helping the public schools do better with updated equipment and program assistance.  The possibility of using a carousel, ridden by children, operated by specific classrooms as a project to raise money, was presented to the group.  In the sustainable tradition of university-town Davis, the board of the DEF loved the idea.  Of course Bill liked the idea too, and agreed to orchestrate a similar community painting program as was done in the big warehouse right next to the BADM at Fort Baker in Sausalito.  Again local kids painted all of the parts during a big month long program held at one of Davis's local elementary school's multipurpose room.

When finished the carousel sat under a beautiful pavilion built by Chuck Roe and friends, one of the board members who was a building contractor.  The location is perfect, in the kids play area at end of the town's central park right next to the beautifully laid out farmer's market stalls.  Students manage the ticket sales, the opening and closing of the ride, and of course are the power source for making it go by using the foot-pedal mechanism located right next to the entrance gate.  Years of successful operation of this carousel have brought tens of thousands of dollars to classroom and school projects.  Recently, while undergoing a much needed 10 year overhaul, all of the animals were dismounted from the carousel.  During this period "Seymour" the seal was stolen.  After a long waiting period, hopes of a mysterious return, and no leads to his whereabouts, a new seal had to be built, these are the construction process photos.  A 10 year anniversary celebration took place in Davis September 2005.

Since then the carousel has continued to be operated by rotating groups of student classes to raise classroom activity funds. Unfortunately the bunny was stolen a few years ago and was just replaced by a memorial sea turtle. A modification to the pole hangers is being made to prevent any more animal thefts. Three photos during June 2013's sea turtle installation; one, two, three.

Davis Schools Foundation, Davis Wiki.

4.  Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito, California to Hunter's Tree Farm and Pumpkin Patch, Olympia, Washington

Breaking into new design standards and a large community project.

This was the carousel design that made the biggest technological leaps since the first one built in Mexico 10 years earlier.  In 1989 the program director of the Bay Area Discovery Museum saw an article in the Carousel News and Trader about Bill Dentzel's simple little carousels.  She thought it would be good for the children in the San Francisco Bay area to have an opportunity to get involved with the making, or as it turned out, painting, of their own carousel.  After meetings, waiting periods, fund raising and site planning, the day came late in 1990 that Bill was given the go-ahead for this project.  This time the mechanism would be 18 feet in diameter (later similar models went up to 20' diameter) and carry 10 riders instead of 5 by having two rows of animals.  Also, the animals would be hanging on poles going through the body just in front of the saddle with a single chain attached to the rear to balance the animal just like the horses on the Dare carousel in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.  Yet even with these innovations the most radical development was yet to come, that was the use of a recumbent seat with a foot-pedaling crank mechanism attached with a long drive shaft at ground level to a vertical shaft next to the centerpole powering the carousel's hub.

The pedaling mechanism was challenging to design and build as it had to be solid, durable, weatherproof, and able to accommodate children peddlers as well as adults comfortably; ergonomics.  Miraculously, working in the little Port Townsend workshop right off the future 52nd Street trail, Bill created this whole mechanism, completely filling the space of the shop to do so.  One final assembly and adjustment phase was undertaken in a neighbor's rented RV garage before the mechanism, eight menagerie animals and one double swan chariot was loaded into the utility trailer and van for the ride south to Sausalito.

At the children's museum site it was a big show with hundreds of young artists working on all aspects of the carousel, painting, stenciling, assembly of parts, test-riding, and pedaling.  The carousel operated there until 1999 when it was sold in order to make room for new exhibits. By fortunate circumstances it was bought by the Port Townsend Carousel Association to be used as an interim carousel for the summer of 2000 after which it was sold to Hunter's Tree Farm and Pumpkin Patch (located at 7401 Yelm Highway SE, Olympia WA).  This caused a bit of a stir in some Port Townsend circles and made for a few uncomfortable encounters between the Port Townsend Carousel Association and city officials.  Apparently some powerful people in Port Townsend did not want to see this type of activity occurring in their "Victorian Seaport and Arts Community", although paradoxically the golden era of carousel development was the late 1800's, the same era that ushered in Port Townsend's charming appearance.  During this period dozens of carousel companies flourished in the USA and produced all manner of rides.  Nevertheless, the Sausalito Carousel, as it was called, is pedal powered and operates seasonally at a very special kid's farm near Olympia, WA.

3.  North Star Tree Farm, Kelsey, California

In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada spins a hand-cranked menagerie.

This was actually the first carousel mechanism Bill Dentzel made in Port Townsend, it was 1984.  The centerpole was the larger half of the differential used in the sister city carousel which had the third member right-angled gears.  Bill, with his new little family, dragged it up to Port Townsend in the back of a U-Haul truck loaded with some tools and their worldly possessions.  This gear assembly made it possible to make a very smooth and solid hand crank to drive the carousel's hub.  As with the previous two carousels, the carousel was 14 feet in diameter and had four animals and a chariot all hanging fore and aft by chains. The Sansom's of Kelsey, CA were visiting Port Townsend in 1985 and saw this carousel temporarily operating at Pope Marine Park for the weekend.  They wanted to buy it for their tree farm and pumpkin patch park.  That is where it stands today in a beautiful rustic setting at the center of the North Star Tree Farm.

2. Jalapa, Nicaragua

Citizens sending a message of peace to Nicaragua.

After moving to Port Townsend, Washington in 1983, Bill Dentzel got involved with a peace group headed by Doug and Nancy Milholland forming the Jalapa/Port Townsend Sister City Association. Their goal was to establish peace and encourage friendly exchange between the regular citizens of the United States and the people of war torn Nicaragua. A monument of peace connected to both countries would be established. Projects included; an improved water and sewage system, a city park with a play structure and a carousel. The carousel animals were built by Bill while attending the École de Sculpture sur Bois as a guest instructor in St. Jean-Port Joli, Québec, in 1982, the rope-pull style mechanism was built in Santa Barbara early in 1983, in 1985 Marion Dentzel bought the machine and donated it to the sister city group.  In 1986 a group of volunteers from Port Townsend WA and Boulder CO went down to Jalapa with a truck load of equipment and supplies (carousel pre-shipment set-up) and worked with the Jalapan people to complete these projects. In Port Townsend several big fund raising dances and auctions were organized along with other informative presentations to pay for some of the transportation and goods.

Note: In 2004, 18 years later, Zaryn Dentzel was able to locate and visit this small regional agricultural village in the northern hills near the Honduran border while making a free-trade and co-op coffee research trip.  It was a sad story he heard and had to relay back to Village Carousel Project HQ in Port Townsend.  During the war with the contras the carousel was dismantled and stored by the villagers to protect it.  Certain parts were "borrowed" (chains, etc.) for other uses which made it impossible to re-erect.  Now the animals are scattered in different houses in the area and the carousel awaits a restoration crew!

1.  Ochusjop, Chiapas, Mexico

First carousel in the remote hinterlands of Chiapas, Mexico.

In 1980 Bill Dentzel was living in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, a highland colonial city in the midst of several distinctive Mayan villages. In SCLC Bill was privileged to be able to learn the art of turning tropical hardwoods on the lathe to make bowls under the instruction of renowned Venezuelan artist Anna Maria Olalde. It was through Ms. Olalde's suggestion and insistance that Bill broke away from the antique carousel restoration routine he had when working in California and wooden boat restoration in Denmark and Malta. With Anna's help, Bill approached the Casa de la Culture y Bellas Artes in San Cristobal and discussed the possibilities of building a carousel in Chiapas. A simple preliminary sketch was given to "Memo"  director of Bellas Artes and "el Archetecto" (the head of F.I.O.S.C.E.R.,
 Fidicomiso para Obras Sociales de Caneros de Escarsos Recursos, in Chiapas, a government trust fund for social projects for sugar cane workers of scarce resources, funded by the sugar tax). In a surprisingly short period of time, three months, the plan was approved at F.I.O.S.E.R. HQ in Mexico City and Bill was given the go-ahead to work with the local people in Chiapas to build this carousel.

The five rider carousel was built in SCLC in the Spring of 1981, mostly in the workshop area of Kiki and Gabriel Saurez at the La Quinta household. Local Spanish pinewood, regularly used for house construction and furniture, was stacked like tee-pees to dry in la Quinta courtyard.  With a plank workbench and a handful of simple tools the animals were cutout and carved into shape.  Don Trini, the local welder and repairman extraordinaire, was the major collaborator for the rotating mechanism's construction. The hub and spindle of a large salvaged truck rear-end was used for the main bearing. The hub mechanism was given thick steel straps for mounting onto a wooden pole or tree trunk, as it turned out to be. Several talented SCLC artists joined in the effort to paint the animals at La Quinta. A large celebration party followed the completion of the carousel's parts. After this, the incredible journey was made to Ochuxsop (via Comitan and through Tzmol) in a jeep-like 1971 Volvo wagon.

The village of Ochusjop, with no real roads, was built on an ancient hill site overlooking the "zona cañeros" and a large subtropical canyon. The friendly people of Ochusjop spoke their indigenous  language and some Spanish. After making camp in a school room, in short order a thick cedar tree was located, cut down and used as the center pole. In their typical thorough and natural style the village work team dug a deep pit at the center of the location, lowered the huge butt of the cedar tree down into it and locked the pole into position with huge boulders and tightly packed clay dirt.  After that a stout circular palm palapa was expertly built over the centerpole on the schoolyard site and the carousel (horse view) was fitted and assembled there. During this time, the women of the village were making hundreds of green leaf wrapped tamales (cooked in huge outdoor ground-pits) and other local treats. On the day of the inauguration hundreds of people came to Ochuxsop on foot and horseback from the whole surrounding region.  The big fiesta happened, the carousel (chariot view) was used to its maximum heavy duty specifications, often times carrying five riders PER animal with two or three kids inside pulling the rope to make the carousel spin with another two or three who crawled up into the upper mechanism sweep arms to hold on for the ride, in other words, fully used.

Amazingly, a day later, toward the end of the fiesta, the sky started raining fine white flakes, they weren't snow. The buildings and land slowly became fuzzy white with ash, the sky was a strange grayish pink, the atmosphere was warm and silent.  Later it was found out that all of the roads to San Cristobal were closed because the volcano "el Chichon" had exploded. The carousel crew was obliged to stay on an additional week in Ochuxsop because of this, eating scores more of the big fat tamales, beans, rice, eggs, and an occasional bit of chicken.

During the extended stay many small matters were presented by the villagers, some were taken care of such as fixing small gasoline engines and examining water problems. Water was the continual topic of discussion among the elders. Even though there was a raging river flowing through the bluegreen canyon at the base of the rocky and dry hill, water still had to be hauled over a mile up a steep trail to the village in wooden barrels on the backs of donkeys. Leading the donkeys up the trail, and usually carrying a barrel or can of water also were the village's children, this was a daily chore, more regular than school.

The carousel crew rode horses down to this river and were amazed at its waterfalls and large shaded pools held up by mineral dams. Of course we all went swimming, the water was refreshing and mild, no bugs. Soon after this soujourn news of the roads opening up arrived, the trip back to the ash buried city of San Cristobal had to take place. The scene there was of devastation, surrealistic and sad. In all directions one saw that from 6 to 24 inches of extremely fine gray powder had settled, reaching into every little crack and interior space. The carousel adventure came to a rapid close, the crew went into survival mode. Still, the magic and joy experienced with the people of Ochusjop assured "Don Guillermo" that making simple carousels in remote communities for children to ride was a wonderful life's pursuit.

Note: In 2004, 23 years later, Zaryn Dentzel, Bill's older son, on a coffee research trip to Central America, was able to loop north to Comitan and San Cristobal.  With directions from his dad, he was able to reach Ochusjop, still very isolated and off the beaten track.  The carousel was still operating in the school yard near the town square.  The people had stories of his dad and the days of celebration when setting it up.  The main question was, when is Don Guillermo coming back?  The answer is, a.s.a.p., maybe late in 2015 if lucky. (Or how about 2016?) (Note: The reunion actually happened in February 2017 and was a great joy for all!)

Educational Thoughts Regarding School-aged Children: Use the attraction of the carousel to convey many other ideas. Carousels associated with schools or museums enhance and boost a child's learning ability.

Areas of Carousel Enhanced Learning:

See Dentzel Carousel Census page for locations of all Dentzel Carousels

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Last Up-dated July 18, 2017

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