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  • Connie Ramsey

    THE WORLD'S GRANDEST CAROUSEL Santa Clara, Calif. A splash of color and light turns round and round to the reminiscent strains of a calliope, while a 100 foot high, gold and white, tent-like palace is silhouetted before a reflecting pool. This is the noblest and newest of the world's grand carousels, "The Columbia." This massive multi-colored, ornate gazebo is the center attraction to guests entering Marriott's GREAT AMERICA ® in Santa Clara, Calif. The Columbia is more than just the world's finest, most expensive ($1.5 million), largest double-decked merry-go-round; it is a tribute to American craftsmanship, both past and present, and an impressive return to the days of elegance. It stands within the front gates of GREAT AMERICA, ten stories high, over 100 prancing horses strong, and surrounded by gardens overflowing with blossoms. Figures on the carousel dance around on shining brass rods, their snarling faces frozen still. Each of the figures on The Columbia are fiberglass replicas of the world's rarest carousel horses and animals. There are cavalry style horses, famous Parker horses and rare Dentzel horses with their manes flying in the wind. (Gustav A. Dentzel has been called "The Father of American Carousels" and his carousel figures are considered the finest ever made.) In all, 82 jumping horses, six standing horses, three chariots, a camel, a giraffe, lion, tiger, dragon, deer, seahorse and pairs of jumping ostriches, pigs, cats and rabbits ride The Columbia. Perhaps best known of these figures is the "Silver Anniversary Horse" which appeared in 1928 to celebrate the silver anniversary of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (one of the finest carousel and roller coaster producers in the United States.) This armoured horse won first prize for best exhibit at the Chicago Amusement Park Convention in 1928. Today, the original horse is displayed at the Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, Florida. Daniel Carl Muller, who is regarded as the greatest of the carousel carvers of the late 19th and early 20th century, designed the chariots on The Columbia. They were carved in 1918, as World War I was coming to a close. Muller used the chariot to symbolize the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. These chariots show the goddess of freedom, "Columbia" enveloped in a furled American flag with an olive branch in her right hand. Her left hand is extended toward the rising sun. His composition was symbolic of post World War I America offering her hand to the sufferers of war and the dawn of a new age of peace. Craftsmanship detailed on The Columbia is not only found in yesteryear's carousel figures, but also in the baroque scrollwork surrounding the carousel. Chris Meuller (no relation to the famous carousel carver, Muller) crafted intricate sculptural acanthus sprays, reflective shields, shells, scrolls, and columns to give the exterior of this carousel a most historic appearance.

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