This story originally aired in a Colorado Getaways episode in the summer of 2010. It aired again on July 22 show.
NEDERLAND (CBS4) – If you haven’t been to Nederland in more than a year, you haven’t seen what is already becoming one of the area’s top attractions. In the center of the mountain town now sits the Carousel of Happiness, the state’s newest carousel.READ MORE: 'Step In The Right Direction': Black Denver Activist Cautiously Optimistic Following Chauvin Verdicts
The carousel was a long time in the making. Over a span of nearly 30 years Scott Harrison worked on the animals and rallied together the community to build the structure that houses it. The carousel opened on Memorial Day in what used to be one of the central shopping complex’s parking areas.
Harrison says he never considered himself to be an artist, but his colorful and entertaining work now inhabits a magical world for kids and kids at heart.
When going for a ride, there are plenty of creatures to pick from besides horses. There’s a flying sheep with wings for ears, an elephant being pursued by a boa constrictor, an alpaca with ballet shoes and a fish with a frog riding behind on a lily pad, among other colorful animals.
“I would research each animal by reading folk tales and children’s stories and hearing songs and reading poems and looking at pictures of different animals just to try to put some sort of essense of the animal into the carving,” Harrison told CBS4.
The carousel also caters to those who are disabled. There’s a gorilla on a chair that goes round and round, and riders in wheelchairs can wheel up next to it and hold its hand during the ride.
“It sounds kind of corny and cliche-ish but everybody seems to come in and out with a big smile on their face, whether they’re a kindergarten class or a busload of seniors or a vanload of special needs folks.”
Harrison, a veteran of the Vietnam War who first got his vision for a carousel during those tough years, began carving his first animal in 1985. Soon after he came across a popular carousel that had operated in Saltair Park in Salt Lake City from 1910 to 1959. The carousel had been running for another 27 years in another location but it was eventually sold to a buyer interested in selling the wooden animals. Harrison was able to acquire the frame of the old carousel and give it new life.READ MORE: Skier Tumbles Estimated 2,000 Feet From 14er Summit
Through the years he stored all the parts and pieces for what would become the Carousel of Happiness — including his carved animals — in an old barn.
When a CBS4 was at the carousel there were plenty of smiley folks going for a ride. Friends of June Munger brought her to Nederland for a surprise birthday party and she was enjoying going round and round.
“They just put me in the car and said ‘Get ready for an adventure.’ So here we are,” she said.
The Bamford family from California was visiting with family in Denver at the time and came up to Nederland for the day.
“We like to escape to the mountains and with a 2 1/2 year old in tow this seemed like natural place to go,” Amy Bamford said. “We’ve ridden a few carousels in our day and think this is one of best ones we’ve seen.
“You can just tell the effort and the love that was put into it, the craftmanship … all the carving of the animals, the music — it all comes together.”
“The carousel is a nice place for people to come up and spend a few minutes just doing something silly,” Harrison said.
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A ride on the Carousel of Happiness is $1 per person. It’s open 7 days a week. The gift shop offers a fun game with stamps for those who want to try to ride on all the animals. Call (303) 258-3457 for more information or log on to carouselofhappiness.org.