Sunday, May 5, 2019

Still Life with Robin: Where to Go Merrily Around

by Peggy Robin

The Cathedral Flower Mart has come and gone for the year, and with it, the chance for kids (and their accompanying adults!) to ride the antique carousel that is one of its star attractions of the fair. If you missed it this year – or even if you never miss it and simply want to get more out of the experience – you can enjoy this video - - with a quick history and some fun facts about the carousel. Did you know there are 22 animals on the carousel, including horses, reindeer, camels, an elephant, a zebra named Coco, a goat named Billy, and a lion named King? There are also two painted chariots for those who prefer to be seated in a conveyance with feet flat on the floor, rather than on the back of a “jumper” (that’s the term for a carousel animal that moves up and down as it goes round and round).

The once-a-year nature of the Cathedral carousel makes it special, but carousel fans need not wait until the first weekend in May of 2020 to ride to the sound of a calliope. Not far from the DC/Maryland border at Glen Echo Park, there’s the historic Dentzel Carousel, which opened on the last weekend in April. Normally it stays open through September, but this year it will be shutting down in July for a full restoration. In 2021 the carousel will turn 100! This is a large carousel with 40 horses – 28 of them jumpers – two chariots, and 12 menagerie animals: one giraffe, one lion, one tiger, one deer, four ostriches, and four rabbits. See it in action here:

If you’ve got out-of-town guests with young children, as I do from time to time, you will of course have to take them to the Zoo and to the museums on the National Mall. You can fit in a carousel ride on either outing. The one at the Mall is a classic carousel with 57 jumping horses, one dragon, two chariots and one circular, swirling tub. It’s across from the Smithsonian Arts and Industries building and it’s open all year round, 10am – 6 pm (until 5pm in winter). See it in action here: (skip ahead to 1:38 to get right to the carousel action).

The one at the Smithsonian National Zoo is the newest of the carousels, installed in 2012 – and one of the few in the world that’s solar powered. And quite possibly the only one in the world where you can ride a naked mole rat! Or a poison dart frog or an anteater. Take at look at the video and see how many different species you can identify:  Become a member of Friends of the National Zoo and you can get tickets for free!  

If you are inclined to make a full tour of all the carousels in the DC Metro area, you’ll want to consult this excellent online guide:

One final note: If you have always wondered what’s the difference between a carousel and a merry-go-round (IS there a difference?), here’s a five-minute discourse on the subject by the “Way with Words” podcast; it tells you everything you could possibly want to know on that score:
(Now if you want to know the difference between a calliope and a caliola – well, you’re just going to have to google that one for yourself!)

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv usually on Saturdays but occasionally (like today) on Sundays.

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