Carousel dream

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer August 06, 2013 10:47 pm

Bud Halliday envisions the “Gray Ghost” building at the Port of Brookings-Harbor as a place for a carnival carousel. The Pilot/Jane Stebbins
Bud Halliday envisions the “Gray Ghost” building at the Port of Brookings-Harbor as a place for a carnival carousel. The Pilot/Jane Stebbins
Bud Halliday ran away and joined the circus 29 years ago — and the 85-year-old Brookings man is still in touch with his inner kid.

After years of working as a “carney,” he now has in mind to build a carnival in Harbor and use the empty “Gray Ghost” building as its base — with A carousel as its centerpiece.

“Anything that’s fun is good enough for me,” he said with a laugh. “I’m still a kid at heart. I haven’t looked back at all.”

The 18,000-square-foot building along Lower Harbor Road was originally envisioned as retail space, but the port board changed direction and aimed instead for an events center – until it realized the costs associated with it, said Port of Brookings Harbor Director Ted Fitzgerald.

That it has remained vacant has long bothered Halliday.

And he feels it — or possibly Azalea Park — could be the perfect location.

Ideally, he’d like to find an old carousel that needs refurbishing and turn its restoration into a community project. His dream team would include numerous local artists, with Horst Wolf at the helm, Christina Olsen painting chariots in her vivacious, colorful style, and Nancy Tuttle providing advice to figure carvers.

“The more people who contribute to it, the more people are interested in it,” Halliday said.

He has no time line, saying most disappointments come from unfulfilled expectations, but believes a carnival could become reality as interest grows.

Halliday’s been drumming up support for his idea in the community, having spoken with people at events and soliciting interest.

Fitzgerald could be one.

The port manager initially sounded hesitant: the costs to obtain a carousel — at least $12,000, and closer to $100,000 for an ornate one — how it would be managed, the liability involved, among other issues.

But within a few moments, he said, “I’m all for it; we should consider it. The port is open to all ideas. If someone wants to put their own attraction in (the building), the port would be willing to make them a heck of a deal.”

Carousels

The chief attraction at Halliday’s carnival would be a carousel, which have in various cities throughout the United States, helped rejuvenate economically depressed areas.

The golden age of the carousel was from about 1880 to about 1930, but they are still popular, Halliday said. (His favorites are the horses — all of them.)

“People remember them as children,” he said. “Everyone’s ridden one at one time or another in life — you can’t hardly find anyone who doesn’t like a carousel.”

Many figures have colorful pasts, most carved from solid blocks of wood and some even listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

And they attract thousands of tourists of all ages — and with them, their dollars. Even a small one has the potential of recouping its initial cost within a week, Halliday said, displaying charts of costs and rides taken.

Halliday thinks they’d be a hit here, as well.

“When people go to the fair, they get rid of their anger and everything else,” he said. “They’re having a good time.”

A painted past

Over the years, they’ve been known as the “painted ponies,” the “roundabout,” and “the merry-go-round. A merry-go-round is actually an American name and goes clockwise, the opposite direction of their European brethren.

They were initially used as a training device for mounted combat. Knights — most of them right-handed — would then practice their attacks on each other.

Carousels became merry-go-rounds in America, and increased in popularity as women and children were attracted to the device as a form of entertainment. When the game of trying to grab a brass ring was introduced, popularity soared.

The lights! The colors! The music!

It all stirs Halliday’s heart.

While many of today’s carousel horses — and lions, unicorns, pirate ships and other figures — are made of fiberglass, older versions were hand-carved from wood, with intricate details paid to such elements as tails, eyes and bridle engravings.

“Some are really scary,” Halliday said, pointing to a postcard of a horse with an additional face on its chest. “But little kids think that’s great. ‘I want to ride this one!’”

Fitzgerald admitted its been almost a decade since he’s taken a spin on a painted pony.

“You want one with the cool horses,” he said. “I think my favorite one … the unicorn.”