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Lions, tigers, but no bears

Tom Jackson • Feb 27, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Lions and tigers and bears.

It turns out there’s more to carousel animals than the familiar horses, as Sandusky’s Merry-Go-Round Museum plans to demonstrate with a new exhibit, “Ups & Downs,” opening Friday night.

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There won’t be any bears — it turns out carousel bears are rare, although Cedar Point is believed to have a few.

There will be tigers and at least one lion — a 500-pound colossus — along with a rabbit, giraffes, two ostriches, a wolf, an elephant, two donkeys, even a sea monster.    

The exhibit will also feature some new horses. In all, close to 50 carousel animals will be on exhibit, many from private collections all over the United States. The vast majority have never been seen in Sandusky, said Kurri Lewis, the museum’s curator.

The exhibit will be unveiled 5-7 p.m. Friday. Admission is free for museum members and $10 for non-members. The event will show off the new exhibit and offer a behind-the-scenes look at museum activities.

“The little elephant there — that’s the oldest piece we have. It’s from 1890,” Lewis said during a sneak peek this week.

The exhibit also features a rooster that has its original paint on it. Although it’s largely intact, it does have pieces of new wood.

“A couple of boys were using it for bow-and-arrow target practice,” he said. “He’s probably the rarest piece we have out here”

Lewis traveled to places such as New Jersey and Roswell, N.M., to arrange to borrow pieces for the exhibit, although some of them, including a carousel bunny rabbit, come from local collector George Stoiber, who owns a carousel in Put-in-Bay.

Every winter, the museum installs a new exhibit in time for the important summer tourism season, said Victoria “Vicki” Vanden Bout, executive director of the museum.

The new exhibit got support from the Erie Community Foundation and the Wightman-Wieber Foundation, Vanden Bout said.

“Their support means so much to us” she said.

Next year, 2015, will be the 25th anniversary of the museum, so planners want to mount a special exhibit. They’d also like to recreate the 2010 band organ rally, which brought in numerous examples of the machines that make music for carousels.

The museum has about 600 members, with probably more than half from outside the local area. Members hail from just about all of the 50 states.

Membership is $40 a year for families and $25 a year for individuals. It includes unlimited rides on the museum’s carousel, free admission to the museum and free admission to the annual opening gala for the museum’s next exhibit.

“Most people just want the unlimited rides” Vanden Bout said.

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