KINGSPORT — The carved horses and other animals of the Kingsport Carousel in the Pal’s Roundhouse were back in motion Saturday afternoon, bringing smiles to faces of children and adults alike.
The children included young brothers from Jonesborough and other kids from Kingsport and the region, while the adults included parents and longtime carousel employees Jay “Carousel” Church and Monica Sears.
At $1 for 3 1/2-minute ride, the price-per-smile ratio might be the best in Kingsport or the region, Sears said. And if a horse or other animal is not your steed of choice, a stage coach and Santa Train also are available.
“It’s been incredible,” Sears said of the reopening of the restored 1956 Allen Herschell carousel. “It’s been really good today. Everybody needs happy right now. We all do — children and adults. It’s the happiest place in Kingsport.”
Closed Dec. 20 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about a post-holiday spike in novel coronavirus cases, the carousel reopened for business Saturday. It will be open 12:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, although it will be closed from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. for in-depth cleaning each day.
In addition to the once-daily deep cleaning, all animals and other spaces that had riders are cleaned between each ride during a five-minute break that also lets the motor that runs the air pump cool, Church said while cleaning a horse. He has worked for the city at the carousel for its entire five years of operation.
“We clean the animals that have been ridden each time,” Church said. “It’s great. We love it. We’re very happy to be back. We had 48 riders the first hour.”
The last riders of the day included Milo Harrington, 5, and his brother, Toby Harrington, 7, from Jonesborough.
“What I like about it is some animals go up and down,” Toby said, and when his mother asked what was their favorite music played during a ride, the two boys responded, “Rocky Top.”
Other repeat customers on the last ride of the day were Sherry Bowlin and her 14-year-old daughter, Abby.
The mother was a volunteer who helped paint a red squirrel above the stage coach and some of the mirrored areas in the center of the carousel, and the daughter is a frequent rider of the Kingsport Carousel and others. She has a hobby of studying and collecting facts about carousels.
She can tell you all about the one that is at Dollywood, the Village Carousel, that is four animals wide and about the history of the more antique one that used to be at Dollywood She said the current one is the largest type of carousel around except for the five-wide ones, of which she said only five exist in the world.