Letters From The Editor: We'll miss the Balboa ponies

September 23, 2011|By John Canalis
  • Janna Wright, left, 71, with her friends Anna Pistole, 88, center, Lavonne Voit, 68, and Pat Newton, right, 82, ride the carousel at the Balboa Fun Zone for the last time Wednesday. The carousel is set to close forever at the end of September.
Janna Wright, left, 71, with her friends Anna Pistole,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

I recently took my 5-year-old daughter to the Balboa Fun Zone.

There was no debate about what we'd do first. She charged the historic merry-go-round.

I paid the freight. She climbed aboard a painted pony. I strapped her in and took a seat, the breeze of the bay at my back.

It's hard to say what came first — the revolutions or the smiles. She loved the rickety old amusement, just one of countless kids to fall under its dizzy spell since the early 1950s.

I took barely-legible snapshots on my phone. Dads document everything.

She was delighted when it ended. My little one will one day stand among the last riders of the carousel, which will be dismantled Sept. 30.

The amusement's lease wasn't renewed, meaning that this fall will mark the first time since the 1930s that there hasn't been a carousel at the Fun Zone. (The current model was installed in 1951.)


It's hard to picture the Fun Zone without the ponies.

I am not alone. My favorite Daily Pilot story in recent weeks was the piece Sarah Peters wrote about a group of senior women mostly from Balboa who took one last spin on the merry-go-round ("One last roundup on Balboa carousel," Sept. 15). I like the ladies' attitude. Instead of complaining about change, they just committed to one last good time.

You can have one too. There's an opportunity this weekend to ride the merry-go-round before it spins into history at the Fun Zone's 75th anniversary.

The prices are right. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, visitors can ride that merry-go-round for 5 cents — and enter the nearby Newport Harbor Nautical Museum for another nickel. And, as if that dose of nostalgia isn't enough, the Ferris wheel will cost a dime, the harbor cruises a quarter.

There'll be music, discounted food and merchandise and model boat building for children. I am a classic car guy and look forward to getting up close to the vintage Fords that will park near Balboa Boulevard and Palm Avenue.

A raffle for boat and Sea Doo rentals, whale watching, Newport Landing gift certificates, Segway tours, Balboa artwork and other prizes will benefit Newport Elementary School.

I certainly empathize with those who say the carousel shouldn't go, but I also understand that tourists who flock Balboa — to say nothing of the locals who also visit the Fun Zone — have different expectations these days from their tourist attractions.

The area could certainly use a face-lift, and I know merry-go-rounds don't draw like they used to, but I am a little choked up about watching those horses gallop into history.

JOHN CANALIS is editor of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot, Daily Pilot and Huntington Beach Independent. He can be reached at (714) 966-4607 and

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