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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Carnival Charisma

Summer - gone! September - gone! October - gone! Here we are in November and the elections are over! Happiness for some, disappointment for others but hopefully the future holds ambitions for all based upon American values.

With most of the year behind us already comes a definitive look ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whoa! Not even ready to go there yet! So, before jumping ahead too quickly let's step back to events of fall that strike at our heartstrings with probably the absolute fondest memories of childhood. What could that possibly bechanging of colours?, falling leaves?, crispness to the air as chilling temperatures replace triple digits?, walks in the afternoon warranting a light sweater?, sips of hot cocoa on a chilly afternoon?  While all of those might be possibilities, none seem to reflect childhood memories. Have you guessed it? Yep - the fall carnival! The traveling carnival usually accompanies an area's fall festival.

The Ferris Wheel
The original Chicago Ferris Wheel,
built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
Did you know the first ferris wheel was constructed as a landmark for the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago1893? It was 264 feet tall carrying 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people. It took 20 minutes for the wheel to complete two revolutions.

The cost? 50 cents
Number of passengers carried daily? 38,000


Australian racegoers enjoy
a merry-go-round at the
Deepwater Races, circa 1910
The Carousel
Next in popularity to the ferris wheel is more than likely the carousel, often classified as a merry-go-round. The earliest known depiction of a carousel (dating to around 500 A.D.), however, depicts riders in baskets suspended from a central pole. In the mid-16th century onward, carousel was also the term for large "horse ballet" or Musical Ride spectacles. These were an intricate part of court festivities for special occasions, i.e., royal weddings or state visits. They replaced serious jousting, although non-combat competitions, such as the ring-tilt, still remained until the 18th century.

Photo Credit: Sharla Shults
The carousel evolved into a something of absolute beauty becoming very intricate in design with its painted jumping horses, stationary ponies, chariots and a huge music box. While the carousel originated on the European continent, it reached its greatest fame in America in the 1900s.

The carousel was always my favorite ride at the carnival. Painted ponies added joy and excitement as they jumped up and down synchronized with the revolving platform. The music was loud and remained ringing in my ears once the ride was over but not bad enough to keep me away from another ride.

The Roller Coaster
Thompson's Switchback Railway, 1884.
No ride could possibly bring about more screams and excitement than the roller coaster! Small versions of  roller coasters made their way into the county fairs, carnivals and festivals. Their dips and turns tempted even the most squimish lad and lassie.

Do you know how this ride got its start? The forerunner of the primitive roller coaster goes back to the 15th and 16th centuries making its debut as a Russian ice slide. In the early 1800s, the ice slides made their way into France with the first wheeled coaster premiering in 1804 in Paris. Eventually these rides migrated to the United States of America and it is theorized the first arrived in the 1870s.

One of the early inventions, which was actually the first roller coaster designed as an amusement ride in America, was the Switchback Railway fashioned after a mining hill company's downhill track used to deliver coal. This creation opened in the spring of 1884 in Coney Island, New York and was a smashing success.

Of course, the mention of these represents only a few among many that top the list of early amusement rides. The Tea Cup, Tilt-a-Whirl and Swing Around hold fond memories as I recall events back in the day!

What are your fondest memories?

Related Articles:

Carniva Charisma @catnipoflife
A Circulary Story: The History of the Carousel
The Carousel Works
Painted Ponies
Old Coney Island Impressions