Downtown carriage rides bring fantasy to life

SANDUSKY A local woman is bringing fairy tales to life in downtown Sandusky. Riding i
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010



A local woman is bringing fairy tales to life in downtown Sandusky.

Riding in a Cinderella-style carriage lined with red velvet, visitors to the city can rise to celebrity status for a few moments as they travel through the streets.

"This is the most romantic thing we've done in a long time," Sandusky resident Heather Wierzba, 33, said as she rode in the horse-drawn carriage Friday evening with her husband, Jay, their daughter, Caileigh, and Heather's parents, visiting from West Virginia.

Two-year-old Caileigh waved to people walking downtown as she sat on her grandmother's lap. Several stopped to point as the large Belgian draft horse clopped along, leading them on their journey.

It was a peaceful scene -- one Denise Flugga said she hopes to create more often in the downtown area.

Flugga, the owner of a carriage and limousine service called Dreams Come True in Huron, began offering carriage rides to the public Friday.

"We're just hoping to bring more people downtown," she said.

The carriage is popular for weddings, anniversaries and other events, Flugga said; and she thought it could add an element of old-fashioned charm and color to the historic district.

She started her business 12 years ago after being inspired by watching Cinderella climb into a similar carriage at Walt Disney World.

The driver, Beth Molnar-Rothgeb, said the rides are especially popular with children.

"They get really excited," she said as she paused to yield to passing traffic. "We do a lot of girls' birthday parties."

The carriage is also a coveted site for dream-like proposals.

"We had one man who came holding a glass slipper and a box for his sweetie, and they took a ride with us," she said. "It was really sweet."

Molnar-Rothgeb said the 19-year-old horse, known as Patti, worked for several years to become harness-trained and required a few additional years to be street-trained. As she slowed Patti to a halt, a group of children rushed to the horse's side for a chance to pet her.

Tom Kazmierczak III, executive director of the Sandusky State Theatre, said he hopes the carriage rides will add to the beauty of the downtown area and become a tourist attraction.

"It's romantic, it's fun, and it's a leisurely pace for people to see everything," he said. "I think it's the perfect destination option."

Kazmierczak said he's already had frequent inquiries about the theater's state room, which hosted its first wedding of the season last week. He said the carriage rides will add another element of elegance to downtown weddings.

The theater's reception room will hold up to 250 guests with a dance floor and about 500 for a cocktail reception.

Flugga said she plans to offer the rides every Friday night as weather permits. She charges $20 for one run with the carriage, which seats up to eight people. The rides start on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Washington Street and last about 10 minutes.

For information on downtown carriage rides or packages for special events, contact Flugga at 419-433-0355.