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Illinois Parks & Recreation
November / December 1995 • Volume 26, Number 6

A Community Recover a Treasure
The Freeport Park District Carousel

Lena-Winslow High School senior Tim Amendt paints

Lena-Winslow High School senior Tim Amendt paints one of twenty horses from the Freeport Park District's Krape Park carousel. Art students from ten schools located in the Freeport area helped refurbish this thirty-six-year-old merry-go-round by researching how the horses should be painted, repainting them, then giving each a new name. The above horse (named Winslow) placed third in the design competition coordinated by the park district. (Photograph by John Blodget, reprinted with permission by The Journal-Standard.)

by Joyce Spahn

If you have ever dreamed of entering an enchanting cathedral of nature, abounding with beautiful scenery—rugged cliffs covered with many different trees and shrubs, deep ravines and caves, picturesque hillsides, and a creek that winds through the grounds—you will not have to travel far. It is located in Krape Park in Freeport, Illinois.

Nestled here in a quiet tree-setting within the 120-acre park are three original gifts which were donated to enhance the park's beauty and provide additional enjoyment for the citizens of the Freeport community—the Memorial Band Shell, the totem pole, and the carousel. All three pieces were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Keonig of Freeport. The late Robert Koenig served on the Freeport park board from 1942 to 1960, as both a commissioner and a past president. He was always keenly aware of the demands of a growing community.

As you travel through Krape Park today you will discover a newly redesigned carousel. And you're sure to find happy kids and friendly faces riding this magical, old merry-go-round, which was restored through a mighty community effort during the winter of 1995.

Measuring thirty-six feet in diameter, the carousel features twenty horses crafted from cast aluminum rather than wood—

Illinois Parks & Recreation * November/December 1995 • 17

pics gallant steeds that create thousands of memories with their jumps, spins, and rides that are never-ending. The Krape Park merry-go-round is the most popular attraction for children—to the tune of 25 cents a ride.

When the carousel was presented to the park board during his term as commissioner, Koenig stated, "I wish the merry-go-round to be dedicated to the children who have used Freeport parks through the years, who are using them now and will be enjoying them in the future."

The merry-go-round opened July 4,1959, and has been operating every summer since. Many rides have been taken by several generations of children. The records show an average of 29,000 rides a year, which would calculate to more than a million rides in its thirty-six-year history.

Bill Koenig, son of the late Robert Koenig, said that when his father donated the carousel to the park, it probably cost $20,000 to $25,000. Today it's valued at more than $350,000; however, its worth exceeds any monetary value placed upon it.

Because the carousel has been in use without repair for thirty-six years, Gary Can, a lifelong Preeport resident, felt that it should be renovated. He organized the drive to beautify the land-mark during the winter of 1995. The planning and enthusiasm he provided made the project a challenge involving teamwork throughout the entire area.

A new design for the carousel was developed by Freeport artist Duane Smith. At the top of the all new blue-and-white vinyl canopied merry-go-round, there are twelve upper perimeter panels each with an oval art frame. In these ovals are portraits of local historical people and land-marks, painted by thirteen area artists.

The portraits feature Robert R Koenig, philanthropist; Jane Addams, social worker, founder of Chicago's Hull-House and native of nearby Cedarville; Chief Winneshiek, a Native American from the area's early history; Tutty Baker, founder of Freeport; Dr. W.W. Krape, who donated the land for Krape Park; and General Smith D. Atkins, a noted soldier from the region.

The landmarks include the old Stephenson County Courthouse, Brown's Mill, a farm scene, Freeport High School, First Presbyterian Church, and a bridge and waterfall scene from Krape Park.

In his carousel design, Duane Smith included a new lighting scheme. It specifies replacing fluorescent fixtures with round incandescent bulbs and the placement of eighteen mirror panels for added sparkle. There are between 800 and 900 bulbs in the new carousel.

Various area businesses helped to improve the lighting, and a new sound system was donated. Volunteers also decided to paint the carousel, rebuild and redesign its sit-down ride benches, add wheelchair ramps, expand the ticket booth, paint the perimeter fence and provide the traditional carousel music for the tape library.

The new ticket booth was built by two young independent carpenters. It is like something from a movie set. Painted in sojourn blue with paper moon white colors which are compatible with the colors used on the newly painted carousel. The booth has five windows, an imitation shake shingle roof, and a scalloped fascia at the roof line. The carousel controls are now located in the ticket booth, rather than in the middle of the merry- go-round, and music is programmed from the booth too.

The most intensive portion of the carousel renovation was the restoration of the horses. After the carousel was disassembled for winter in the fall of 1994, the horses were mounted on individual stands to be sent for sandblasting. Each pair of horses were sandblasted, then moved to auto body shops throughout the area. Ten auto body shops donated time and materials to apply primer, sealer, two coats of acrylic enamel, and two coats of acrylic enamel paint with hardener. The painting the horses received will have a ten-year durability.

After this step was completed at the end of January, the horses were turned loose to art classes at two Freeport schools, the local community college, and seven area schools for painting and detailing. Students worked on the horses until they were completed. Many students researched ideas to determine different patterns for the horses. Schools with the top three horse designs were awarded cash prizes, and each school was asked to name the horses their students restored.

As the horses were completed, a moving and storage company sent out a crew with a padded van and secured the horses in each truck. Their destination was one of the heated warehouses in Freeport.

No detail was overlooked. New spiral brass pony poles and platform hanger poles were added to the carousel. Leather reins were even donated for the horses by the Stephenson County Mounted Patrol.

Approximately 100 to 150 people volunteered their services during the seven-month restoration of the merry-go-round, and many materials were donated. However, Gary Can, coordinator of the volunteer effort, stated that $ 18,000 in funds had to be raised to cover some costs. The price of the new top canopy was $2,000 and the spiral brass poles and hangers cost nearly $2,500.

Freeport Park District's reprint of local artist Grace Mitchell's twenty-eight-page coloring book entitled Freeport Parks became an important fundraiser for me renovation of the Krape Park carousel. The updated edition included Mitchell's

18 Illinois Parks & Recreation November/December 1995

drawings of all the popular attractions at Krape Park, Read Park, Oakdale Nature Preserve and Taylor Park. Also included were 1994 drawings of Krape Park's Kid Kastle and Read Park's Family Aquatic Center.

Many members of the community purchased this book, which the local newspaper advertised free of charge. Besides sales from the Freeport Park District office, employees from ice cream shops, cultural and historical centers volunteered their time to sell these books at their locations. The price of the coloring book was four dollars, with all profits dedicated to the restoration of the carousel.

The grand re-opening celebration was held on Saturday, May 13, at 1:00 p.m. Volunteers who worked on the carousel project were recognized. Freeport Park Board President Lyle Reedy, park board members, and members of the Koenig family were present at the ceremony. Free merry-go-round rides were offered to kids of all ages after the re-opening ceremony and for the rest of the day.

Gary Carr, organizer of the drive to renovate the carousel was referred to as "Mr. Merry-Go-Round," and was presented with a Community Service Award for his work on the project. Three of the horses' creators from the high school and Highland Community College classes were also given their well-earned awards.

If you would like a tangible reminder of the charming car- ousel at the Krape Park brought to life by so many volunteers, you can now purchase a picture postcard done by Steve Snyder. He has photographed four magnificent horses of the merry-go- round against a black background. The card has just come off the presses and is available in local stores and the Freeport Park District offices.

The carousel at Krape Park was restored to provide entertainment and happiness for children and adults for many years to come. The Freeport Park District is indebted to all volunteers who, in a spirit of giving in return, donated their time and service to provide the beautiful carousel at Krape Park. It gives every visitor to the park a rendezvous with the best of nature.

Every day something of beauty from the park goes back into the homes, the workplaces, the stores, the schools and the churches.

Joyce Spahn is a retired English teacher from School District #145 in Freeport, Illinois.

Bill Koenig and his wife, Alice
Bill Koenig and his wife, Alice, take the inaugural ride at the grand re-opening of the Krape Park carousel in May of 1995. Koenig's father was a local philanthropist and park commissioner who donated the carousel to the Freeport Park District in 1957.

Description of Carousel Ovals (on page 18)
Thirteen Freeport-area artists painted portraits of historic scenes and individuals for the newly redesigned Krape Park carousel. Twelve oval art pieces grace the upper fascia of this popular community attraction.

Tutty Baker (top oval)
Artist Emily Wilken painted this portrait of Tutty Baker, the founder of Freeport Baker offered travelers passing through the area free ferry rides, meals and lodging; hence the name "free port."

Farm Scene (middle oval)
Riding a dairy cow back to the red barn, faithful dog running alongside, a blonde-headed youngster waves to the fanner sowing the field beyond. This familiar Freeport scene was painted by artist Vickie Crone.

Jane Addams (bottom oval)
Jane Addams, social worker and founder of Chicago's historic Hull-House, was born in Cedarville, Illinois, located just five miles from Freeport. Artist Roger Goodspeed painted her portrait for the carousel.

Illinois Parks & Recreation * November/December 1995 • 19

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