History goes in cycles, they say. Time wheels back around to where it has already been; new becomes old becomes new again. Witness the Kit Carson County Carousel, which began spinning in 1905 at Elitch Gardens in Denver. Built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, this ornate attraction featured forty-six hand-carved and -painted animals, a 220-pipe Wurlitzer Monster Military Band Organ, mirrors, oil paintings, bright lights, and gold-leaf trim. This whirling festival of color and sound immediately became one of Elitch’s prime attractions—a one-ring circus, delighting a generation of amusement-park patrons.
In 1928 Elitch’s bought a more modern carousel and sold the old one to Kit Carson County, which installed it at the fairgrounds in Burlington. Residents there gave it a rude welcome, complaining so loudly about the $1,250 price tag that three county commissioners were forced to give up their jobs. The Great Depression ensued, and Kit Carson County suspended its annual fair; the carousel spent six years standing motionless in a storage hangar, half-buried in government-surplus cornstalks. Rodents and birds took up residence, destroying the mighty Wurlitzer and gnawing wounds into the animal figures’ painted hides.
The carousel finally began running again in 1937 and limped along until the mid-1970s, when local citizens launched a drive to restore it. Over the next twenty-five years they rehabilitated the long-silent organ, repaired the damaged wood, touched up the peeled paint, and installed modern drainage and security systems. And so the Kit Carson County Carousel had finally come full circle. One of the oldest merry-go-rounds in the nation—and the only one with a working Monster Military Band Organ—it delights a new generation of patrons, recreating the pleasures of time past.
The State Historical Fund grants totaling $479,736 have assisted with the restoration of the carousel animals, the installation of a “dry” sprinkler system, restoration of the band organ, and restoration of the building that houses the carousel.