In 1999-2000, local Saranac Lake wood carver Karen Loffler, while working on a master’s degree in creative studies, came across an article in a woodcarving magazine that showed a small children’s carousel fitted with woodland animals. The combination of a creative approach to problem solving, her love of woodcarving, and a desire to foster imagination and strengthen her local community, inspired Karen’s dream of building a full-size carousel complete with hand-carved figures of animals indigenous to the Adirondack Mt. area.
In 2001, Karen and a committed group of local residents, supported by the close-knit community-minded people in the small village of Saranac Lake, met to address the logistics. That same year the project became a reality and the group incorporated and was granted not-for profit status.
The staff and board of the Adirondack Carousel worked tirelessly, recruiting woodcarvers to donate their skills and sponsors to underwrite the cost of production, met with local government groups, and worked with the community, local artists, builders and volunteers to garner support. The response to the search for woodcarvers was immediate, and in 2006 the Village of Saranac Lake generously donated land at the historic William Morris Park for the Carousel’s permanent home.
Humbly overwhelmed and excited at the outpouring of so many generous donations of in-kind services and materials, ensuring The Adirondack Carousel, when completed, would be truly “built with community hands,” the organization broke ground on June 20, 2011.
Karen’s dream has become a reality, and has expanded to include a year-round 3,600 sq. ft. pavilion that houses the full-size carousel, as well as gallery/workshop/classroom space. Outside the building is a playground and beautiful pathways constructed from personal, permanently engraved pavers sold as part of the fundraising efforts. Twenty-four handcrafted wildlife animals (18 of which are displayed at one time) and a wheelchair-accessible chariot (a Chris Craft boat) grace the Carousel. In Fall 2011, the Saranac Lake Central School district elementary students voted and named the animals. Local artists hand painted the decorative panels and separating medallions at the top of the Carousel with area scenes and local flora; a local blacksmith created and forged the weathervane that sits atop the main cupola; a local carpenter built the ticket/sales counter and and countless volunteers painted and stained inside and out.
The Adirondack Carousel, a unique Adirondack gathering place, officially opened its doors in 2012.