There was a time when almost every town on the Jersey Shore had a carousel. Until recently, only two of the grand old carousels remained: Gillian’s Wonderland Pier Carousel in Ocean City, and the Dr. Floyd Moreland Carousel in Seaside Heights.
But at the end of July, Long Branch unveiled a new, hand-carved carousel with a seaside theme at Pier Village. Guests can ride a dolphin, a seahorse, a pelican and various fish. Even the traditional horses wear wreaths of seashells and seaweed befitting the carousel’s boardwalk location, just a few yards from the beach (and alongside the new Wave Hotel).
The new carousel is a reminder of the golden age of the American carousel, from 1870–1930. The Depression put an end to carousel production, but the Shore’s carousels continued to spin. As time passed, some were lost to fire or flood, while others that did survive were often sidelined in favor of more exciting rides. In the 1970s, collectors rediscovered historic carousel animals as folk art, and it soon became more profitable to break up the rides and sell the individual animals than to keep them running.
Carousels have a long history in Long Branch. At least as early as 1909, there was a carousel on the Long Branch Pier. The hurricane of 1944 demolished the pier—and the carousel. The pier eventually was rebuilt with a mix of fast-food restaurants and carnival attractions, including an old-fashioned carousel. In 1979, the Pier was sold to developers and the carousel broken up. In June 1987, a fire destroyed the latest pier, paving the way for today’s Pier Village.
The new Pier Village Carousel is the work of an Ohio company, Carousel Works, which has hand-built more than 60 carousels since the 1990s.
The carousel is open noon–9 pm daily through Labor Day, and then weekends only through October 31. A 2-1/2-minute ride costs $4, or three rides for $10. Long Branch schoolchildren with valid IDs pay half price. Children under 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult. The carousel is handicapped accessible.
Rides won’t necessarily end with the warm weather, though. Housed in a glass pavilion that can be heated, the carousel could be a year-round attraction if the City of Long Branch, which owns it, sees the demand.
Perdita Buchan’s new novel, The Carousel Carver (Plexus Publishing), tells the story of a “golden age” immigrant carver.Click here to leave a comment