Where did Downtown Palm Beach Gardens carousel go? To a repair site far, far away...
By Maya Washburn, Palm Beach Post,
Editor's note : An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the person speaking on behalf of Downtown Palm Beach Gardens. The story has been corrected. - PALM BEACH GARDENS — Along the lakeside at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens, a visitor can hear the sound of children playing in the distance as the spot where a beloved carousel used to be lies vacant. For more than a decade, the carousel had drawn families with young children to the retail and restaurant complex at PGA Boulevard and Alternate A1A. It had given stores there a boost in the midst of the Great Recession. Some noticed it often had stood still in the early weeks of the year. Where did the carousel go?
Crews disassembled it in early March and sent it across the country to Temecula, California, for maintenance at the hands of the Western Train Co. , a family-run ride manufacturer known for bringing vintage carousels back to life.
Western Train will either repair or replace parts like gears and light bars that have been worn or damaged over time, said Anthony Marquez, marketing director the company headquartered an hour north of San Diego.
“With proper maintenance, rides like this one can last for decades,” Marquez said. A cost estimate for the project wasn't immediately available.
With any luck, children can line up again in late May or early June to ride the carousel, a top TripAdvisor attraction that has become a destination for families since its first spin in 2010.
“The carousel embodies our dedication to providing a unique and memorable experience for our visitors,” said Alexis Brock, marketing manager for ShopCore Properties, which owns Downtown Palm Beach Gardens .
“That's why we are investing in the necessary operational repairs to ensure its longevity, so that families can continue to enjoy the ride for years to come."
Palm Beach Gardens carousel one of about 180 left in U.S.
The carousel's first ride took place on Black Friday 2010 at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens, brought in by the mall's owners at a cost of $400,000. It was built by the now-shuttered Carousel Works of Richland, Ohio, which built more than 60 merry-go-rounds for sites around the world.
There are only 180 carousels remaining in the United States, making the one in Palm Beach Gardens a rare sight, Brock said.
It features 27 handmade wooden animals, with some critters distinctive to South Florida, including a manatee, flamingos and a Florida panther.
Savanna Sharrock, a 19-year-old Palm Beach Gardens native who works at Craft Haus pottery painting studio steps away from the carousel, grew up going to the carousel with her mom.
She said she saw the carousel had stopped running a few months ago before it was taken down.
“This is kind of a sad moment for me because I miss seeing it up there,” Sharrock said. “I hope it comes back and stays around for a little while longer.”
Parents often enter the Craft Haus pottery stores, asking what happened to the carousel and when it’s coming back, she said.
Hiatus is second for Palm Beach Gardens carousel since 2020
The carousel has been back in operation for just over a year since its last hiatus . It was disassembled and gently refurbished in August 2020 to restore the painting of the characters and pieces to their original state.
It didn’t return until Jan. 20, 2022, when it was moved to its new home in the shopping center, on the lakeside near The Cheesecake Factory. No damages happened during the move.
The relocation was a part of the major redevelopment plan at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens. Phase 1 of the redevelopment is currently finishing up, with the installation of art panels, floral landscaping, sculptural seating and even swings.
Age Ramos has managed the REI store at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens over the past year. He typically eats lunch by the carousel and has seen a recent rush in visitors to it.
“When I first came here, (Downtown Palm Beach Gardens) was just dead. More often than not, the carousel wasn’t too busy,” said Ramos. “But since they’ve been doing renovations, I've started seeing a lot of families here, finally. When I first started here, that wasn't a thing. Now, I see more life in this shopping center.”
Julie Sauchelli, another local resident, said that on her cousins’ annual trip to Palm Beach Gardens from New Jersey, her family made it a tradition to take the “special carousel ride.”
“The Downtown carousel is iconic to our town,” Sauchelli said. “Our family has so many wonderful memories with it.”