Learn about A Carousel for Missoula


“If you will give it a home, and promise no one will ever take it apart, I will build A Carousel for Missoula.”  That was the promise Missoula cabinet-maker Chuck Kaparich made to the Missoula City Council in 1991.  Kaparich, who had spent many childhood hours on the carousel at Columbia Gardens in Butte, Montana, had already carved four carousel ponies and had purchased an antique frame in thousands of pieces.  The Council agreed and Kaparich’s dream of A Carousel for Missoula became the dream of a community.

A board of directors was formed to facilitate organization and fund raising, Kaparich taught others to carve, mechanics began the process of restoring 16,066 pieces if the antique frame and motor, painters were recruited, and Missoula began working together to create a treasure.
By Opening Day, May 27, 1995, over 100,000 hours of volunteer time had gone into the construction of 38 permanent ponies; three replacement ponies; two chariots; 14 gargoyles, gargoyle frames and mirror frames; and the largest band organ in continuous use in the United States, all within a jewel box building.

Community members donated time, services, materials and encouragement.  School children collected over one-million pennies to adopt four ponies; stained glass artists constructed shimmering windows; mechanics poured Babbitt; majestic horses’ heads emerged from blocks of wood; and people found lasting friendships among the woodchips.  The community extended as far as Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where the Midnight Rose Carvers built a friendship horse for Missoula.  The story of the Carousel includes wood and metal, concrete and colored glass, hearts and hands, and countless hours of loving labor.

The spirit of giving which created the Carousel didn’t end when the building opened.  Volunteers carve ponies for other carousels and local not-for-profit organizations, and restore ponies for antique carousels.  The mechanical crew donates time to keep the machine in tip top condition, and many others help improve and maintain the Carousel as a gift to the community.

In the spring of 2001, over 4,000 volunteers gathered to create Dragon Hollow Playarea next to the Carousel in just nine days.  A grassy field became a magical playland, again with the help of the entire community, and friends from around the world.

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