Three rings of a bell, and the 28 horses of the Congress Park Carousel are off.
The horses, which were carved by Marcus Charles Illions in 1910, have been making their rounds at the current location since 2002 after an extensive restoration project.
Today, the ride is a cornerstone of the scenic park. Elsewhere in the park, teenagers meet up with friends on its sprawling lawns while young professionals often take an afternoon break with a book or journal near the small pond. Joggers take to the park’s winding trails, and many rest on benches after spending time wandering downtown streets.
Local families also flock to the park during the summer months when the carousel is in operation.
Ann Derico, 74, of Halfmoon, has been bringing her six grandchildren to the ride since her oldest was born seven years ago.
“I think it’s great, fantastic, really. The kids can’t wait to get here, and it’s great for them,” she said.
On a recent afternoon, screams of joy could be heard across the park as young children pulled their parents toward the ride.
After buying a ride token, children are greeted by carousel workers like Stephanie Samascott of Ballston Spa.
Samascott has been working at the carousel for three years, taking tokens and giving out stickers to the riders.
Debbie Tuttle of Charlton said that she comes to the park for its vendor sale but stays to spend time with her grandchildren, Emme, 4, and Davis, 2.
Their mother, Paula Fischer, said the family heads to the carousel at least once a week, which “gives the children something fun to look forward to.”
Emme loves riding the carousel so much that she celebrated her fourth birthday there recently. “I like when we’re going around, and I like all of the horses,” she said.
But before the days of dollar-per-ride tokens, the carousel was part of the many attractions found at Kaydeross Park, an amusement area on Saratoga Lake. When the park closed in 1987, plans were made to auction off the carousel piece by piece.
The historical significance of the ride, however, led to the founding of the Save the Carousel Committee, which raised $150,000 to retain the entire carousel for restoration.
Today, it is the last two-row carousel carved by Marcus Illions that remains intact and is one of 150 operating carousels that remain of the 3,000 to 4,000 carved between 1885 and 1930.