Take a ride for conservation at the Edmonton Valley Zoo
The Edmonton Valley Zoo is unveiling its Conservation Carousel after five years and more than 20,000 hours of work.
Since 2017, the dedicated volunteer carvers at Fort Edmonton Park have been refurbishing the zoo’s original Herschell Spillman Children’s Carousel. They have carved 25 animal seats, two chariots, and 52 decorative panels. Each carving has taken between 350 and 400 hours to complete. In addition to the carousel itself, the ride has a new permanent home: it is located in a climate-controlled, year-round building that features hardwood decking, a new electrical system, new lighting, a sound and PA system, and an updated drive system. There are additional animal seats that will allow for them to be changed out for maintenance and for variety.
The refurbished carousel is one of only two original 1959 Herschell Spillman Children’s Carousels remaining in operation in the world. The other is located in the Herschell museum in New York state.
“This carousel is like nothing you’ve witnessed before. With the gracious support of so many people, we were able to raise more than $440,000 to finish the Conservation Carousel and construct a permanent home for it here,” said Tammy Wiebe, executive director of the Valley Zoo Development Society, the zoo’s fundraising partner. “A ride on the Conservation Carousel will be by donation, raising funds for future conservation projects while educating children about the incredible animals they’re enjoying and surrounded by here today.”
In addition to the many volunteer hours needed, refurbishing the carousel was made possible through the financial support of generous donors. Twenty-five individuals and organizations sponsored each hand-carved seat. Gregg Distributors sponsored the building and federal funding for this initiative has been provided through the Canada Community Revitalization Fund (CCRF), which is administered in Alberta by PrairiesCan.
“Our government is making investments that are transforming public infrastructure into modern gathering places for everyone to enjoy through the Canada Community Revitalization Fund,” said the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister for Prairies Economic Development Canada. “Our investment to support the conservation of the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s carousel will help create an accessible and enjoyable community learning space for years to come.”
“The Edmonton Valley Zoo is a premier attraction in our city that brings people together, draws visitors, and supports Edmonton’s economy,” said the Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance. “Today’s announcement will maintain a historic part of the Zoo for generations to come while further positioning the Zoo as an unmissable year-round experience in Edmonton.”
Maintaining the integrity of a ride that is over 60 years old has made this carousel a functioning work of art. The original aluminium horses have been restored and will be on display inside the building.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for many years. So many hours of heartfelt work are now available for all of us to enjoy,” said Edmonton Valley Zoo Director Gary Dewar. “This carousel is one of a kind. There’s nothing else in the world like it and we’re thrilled and proud that it’s ours. Generations will be able to enjoy this magnificent work of art while learning about animals and supporting important conservation efforts.”
The Conservation Carousel is now open to the public and is located near the top of the Wander Trail, near the hoofstock pastures. Rides are for children under 127 cm (50 inches) by donation to conservation programs which the Edmonton Valley Zoo supports.
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