Pa. man puts new spin on carousels

November 24, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - One of the amusement rides Ken Adams remembers most as a young boy is the carousel at the former Pen-Mar Park.

"I remember my brothers trying to reach out and catch the brass ring, but I was too small to reach," Adams said, recalling his first experience on the ride at the age of 6 or 7 when his father took the Waynesboro, Pa., family to the park.

With elaborately carved animals that slide up and down on poles as they go round and round to organ music tunes under bright lights, carousels fascinate Adams, a retired upholsterer, to this day.


At the urging of his wife, Joyce, Adams turned his childhood image of carousels into childhood-sized replicas of them, complete with all of the amenities of life-sized ones.

"It's just something that amazes me. I love the music and the motion," Adams said.

With five miniature carousels built, plus two that work as porch lights at his South Second Street home, and a double-decker carousel in the works, Adams' miniature hobby has turned into a grand undertaking.

"The whole thing about building them is, when you build one, you can't stop," he said.

Now he takes his carousels on the road, displaying them at shows all over the country as a member, and current president, of the Miniature Carousel Builders Inc., founded in Chambersburg in 1986.

"No matter where we go, we draw a crowd of people you wouldn't believe," Adams said.

But his favorite places to set up are at local retirement homes, where the residents show true appreciation for the miniature carousels just by the looks on their faces.

"Their eyes light up when they come in and see them," he said, adding that some, like himself, often recall rides on carousels as children.

"The roller coaster is a thrill, but it's a pleasure to ride the carousel. You've got the music and everything is so jolly, so lively," Adams said, pausing a moment to listen to the taped organ music playing in one of his carousels.

Adams first became interested in the hobby eight years ago when he saw a handmade miniature carousel on display made by Chambersburg resident Jerry Defenderfer, one of the founders of the Miniature Carousel Builders Inc. that now boasts more than 150 members from around the world.

He decided to build one of his own, which took a painstaking year and a month to finish.

"About a half dozen times it about went into the trash," Adams said, explaining the detailed work that goes into building one.

With the first one under his belt, it didn't take Adams long to begin a second carousel, which he completed in just a few months, after learning some shortcuts and acquiring all the tools and supplies he needed.

But perhaps the biggest lesson he learned is to stop working if something goes wrong.

"Close it down and walk away from it and go back the next day or in a few hours. Otherwise, you'll ruin something," he said.

Members of the Miniature Carousel Builders Inc. will gladly teach newcomers how to build a miniature carousel and they even have some plans available, Adams said.

For more information, call Adams at 1-717-263-5787, or write the organization's secretary, Lawrence Ebersole, at 605 N. Mount Joy St., Elizabethtown, Pa. 17022.

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