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Mailbag: Carousel ponies gallop off into history

December 17, 2011

What has 30 jumping horses, eight stationary ponies, two chariots and plays by the seaside?

The answer is the Balboa Fun Zone's iconic carousel of course! But unfortunately, it will no longer be gracing the bayfront carnival wonderland. The Balboa Peninsula's most famous horses have stopped galloping after delivering 25 years of rides and memories to visitors and local families alike. The Ferris wheel, arcade and trampoline are scheduled to remain on the site.

But for the first time in its 75-year history, the Fun Zone is without a carousel.

In honor of the Fun Zone's 75th Birthday, the Volner Family decided to pay homage to this historic troupe of ceramic steeds. So, this past August, we got decked out in our Sunday best and made our way to the carousel to take our farewell ride. But even though it was our last spin, we spent the entire two-minute ride giggling and tugging tightly on the worn leather reins as though it was our first.

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And it was after this special visit that we decided to find out more about these historic horsies. We dug through online articles and made some interesting discoveries. The carousel was built in 1951 and was originally in Santa's Village in Scott's Valley, north of Santa Cruz, until being restored and being placed in the Balboa Fun Zone in 1985, where it replaced a vintage model that had previously been on the site since the opening of the Fun Zone in 1936.

Ever since the 1930s, there has always been a carousel at the Fun Zone. Until now, that is. The Newport Beach Nautical Museum that owns this area is planning to use the land where the carousel sat to build a preview center to showcase its upcoming expansion plans.

For our family, the carousel, as well as the entire Fun Zone, has provided a backdrop for wonderful memories over the years. We can almost smell the fresh pizza and waffle cones and hear the jingling of tokens as they dance through the slots of arcade games.

There are not many places left in Orange County that you can actually say you, your grandparents, parents and children, have all enjoyed. We tip our hats and raise our cotton candy in the air as we wish the Fun Zone, a very happy 75th birthday. And wherever those brightly colored carousel ponies gallop off to, we hope they continue to bring joy for generations to come!

Shelly Volner

Newport Beach

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