Celebrate Looff Carousel’s reopening

Celebrate Looff Carousel’s reopening

Under the watchful gaze of one of the horses on the Looff Carousel in Slater Park, Pawtucket, Pat Arruda, of Warwick, finishes the interior paint work there Monday, readying for Friday’s grand re-opening. The building was fully restored; the carousel itself was not. (Breeze photos by Tom Ward)

Editor's note: A previous version of this article listed the grand reopening of the Looff Carousel as Friday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m., but it has since been rescheduled to Saturday, Sept. 14, at noon as a precaution against mosquitoes that may be carrying the EEE virus.

PAWTUCKET – After four months of renovations, the historic Looff Carousel and its classic horses will reopen to the public this Saturday, Sept. 14, at noon at Slater Park in Pawtucket. Project Manager Joe Morais, who works for the city’s Department of Public Works, told The Breeze he couldn’t be happier with the finished product.

“I know that it’s much more structurally put together, especially in regard to the roof,” he said. “Aesthetically it looks absolutely beautiful. It looks like a new building … I haven’t heard one negative reaction to it. Everyone is really happy.”

Work by Red Oak Remodeling, of Coventry, began in May and included fixing the exterior roof, including shingles and the cupola, as well as the skeleton of the building including walls, windows, doors, and stairs, Morais said. The carousel ride itself was not part of the renovation.

Crews, who had to follow historical guidelines, were wrapping up work at the beginning of this week. Morais said the project was done on time and on budget “100 percent.” The approximately $460,000 project was paid for by funds from the city’s public building bond, he said.

Other major upgrades expected to take place over the next few years include the addition of a new handicap ramp, the creation of a fire suppression system, floor replacement, and electrical upgrades including lighting, according to Morais.

The carousel, which features a functioning band organ, as well as 44 horses, six menagerie animals (one camel, three dogs, one giraffe, one lion), and two chariots, was built in 1895 by Charles I. D. Looff and relocated to Slater Park in 1910 from a carnival called Lee Funland in upstate New York. It continues to operate today and is open on weekends.

The grand reopening Friday starts at 6 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony conducted by the Pawtucket Arts Festival crew and a brief speaking program.

Mayor Donald Grebien, as well as members of city departments including Public Works and Parks and Recreation, will be at the ceremony, said Wilder Arboleda, spokesman for Grebien.

“It’s exciting,” Anthony Ambrosino, director of the Pawtucket Arts Festival, told The Breeze. “I think we’re proud and very lucky and honored that we have such a historic carousel in Pawtucket.”

Last year the National Carousel Association unanimously awarded the Slater Park Looff Carousel the 2018 NCA Historic Award.

Carousel enthusiasts from around the country are expected to come to the city and see it, Ambrosino said.

Donna Houle, special projects coordinator at the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and president of the Friends of the Looff Carousel at Slater Park, who’s been documenting the construction twice a week since May, said she’s “thrilled with the renovations.”

The Friends are an all-volunteer group whose mission is to protect, promote, and preserve the carousel, said Houle, who added that the carousel looks “terrific” and very similar to how it looked in 1910, based on a postcard she has of the structure from that time.

Following Friday’s ceremony, as part of the Pawtucket Arts Festival, will be a celebration of the 20th year of the Pawtucket Film Festival with a presentation of Buster Keaton’s silent classic “Steamboat Bill Junior” performed with renowned silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, Ambrosino said. Rick Roth will also be honored for his 20 years with the Film Festival.

For more information, visit www.pawtucketartsfestival.org/festival-events .

John Altieri, of Coventry, a painter with general contractor Red Oak Remodeling, puts the finishing touches on the paint in preparation for the Looff Carousel’s re-opening on Friday. While the entire building was restored, the carousel itself was not part of the work.
Dan Conlan, president of general contractor Red Oak Remodeling, of Coventry, and Markus Gray, below, install the wiring for a new lightning rod Monday morning at the Looff Carousel in Slater Park, Pawtucket.
Ben Gasior was hard at work Monday cleaning windows and putting the finishing touches on the building which houses the Looff Carousel in Slater Park, Pawtucket.