17 miles west of Boulder, Colorado and about one hour of driving from Denver, the charming city of Nederland welcomes visitors looking to break away from the maddening noise of day to day life. The town used to be known for its hippy inspired events, such as the NedFest Music Festival, but since May 2010, a different attraction draws people to this quiet mountain town. The Carousel of Happiness is exactly what the name implies, a place where you can forget about your daily problems, and experience utter happiness.
The story of the Carousel is fascinating. The idea of building a carousel on a mountain meadow appeared in the mind of Scott Harrison during his service as a Marine in the Vietnam War. As he later recounted, he used to listen to the gentle chimes of a music box received as a gift from his sister. The music box helped him pass over the horrors of war, and the idea of building a carousel did not fade upon homecoming.
A skilled wood carver, Harrison sculpted the first carousel animal in 1985, a charming rabbit. He used basswood, to remain faithful the glorious tradition of American carousel builders and hand painted each figure with beautiful touches and attention to details. He slowly began to collect a menagerie of wooden animals, each more charming than the other until he had enough to fit an entire carousel.
The story of the mechanical component of the Carousel of Happiness blends with the history of American Carousels. Built by master carousel builder Charles Looff in 1911, the ride knew its glory during the 1920s and 30’ only to meet its downfall as the age of the merry-go-rounds slowly faded away. Moved on the grounds of the Utah State Hospital, the carousel degraded as the animals were removed and sold to collectors. In this deplorable condition, the carousel was acquired by Harrison who set to the difficult task of restoring the old machine to its former glory. After decades of hard work and dedication to the dream of opening the Carousel of Happiness, the work of Harrison and his friends finally came to fruition in 2010, when the new carousel opened to the public.
Dedicated to the mission of bringing happiness to those who ride it, the Carousel welcomes visitors of all ages to enjoy the whimsical experience of taking a $1 ride on one of the dozens beautiful animals. Each animal is sculpted with visible care and attention and vividly painted in bright colors, and is guaranteed to bring a smile upon the face of the riders. Donkeys, dolphins, bears, cheetahs and countless other sculptures go round the grand carousel in a mesmerizing display of art. The rides are suited for children and adults alike and there is even a friendly gorilla ride for people immobilized in wheel chairs. The building which hosts the Carousel of Happiness from Denver was specially designed and built to be environmentally friendly, while offering shelter to the whimsical display inside all year round.
A trip to the family friendly Carousel of Happiness in Nederland, Colorado is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon in the company of a happy crowd, admiring the dizzying display of art and craftsmanship offered by the rejuvenated carousel.