The Arkansas Carousel
The Little Rock Zoo is the proud home of the Arkansas Carousel, a one-of-a-kind Over-the-Jumps antique carousel that is the only fully operational carousel of its kind in the world.
The Over-the-Jumps Carousel was constructed as a traveling carousel by the Spillman Engineering Company of North Tonawanda, New York, during the heyday of carousels in the United States (1887-1935). It first appeared in Arkansas at the 1924 Arkansas State Fair held at State Fair Park, now known as War Memorial Park.
PHOTO OF RIDERS ON THE ARKANSAS CAROUSEL IN THE 1930's. AUTHOR UNKNOWN
It is the last known “over-the-jumps” carousel known to exist with an undulating track, one of only four built in the world. The undulating track moves up and down with the horses attached to the track. Standard carousels feature horses attached to poles that move up and down to create motion.
Little Rock resident Tom Fuzzell purchased it in 1942, saving it from destruction and allowing several more generations of Arkansans to enjoy it at War Memorial Amusement Park.
The carousel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Owners Mokey Choate and Doc O’Kelley decided to sell the carousel in 1991, putting its future in Arkansas in peril. Under the leadership of then State Senator Mike Kinard and other visionary leaders, Friends of the Carousel was formed to raise the funds necessary to purchase and fully restore the beloved carousel.
After more than $500,000 and 16 years of hard work, the Friends of the Carousel donated the Over-the-Jumps carousel to the Little Rock Zoo in October of 2007 making the Zoo the permanent home of the carousel.
GUESTS RIDE THE RESTORED CAROUSEL IN 2007. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAGGIE DEARNLY.
During the restoration process, more than 30 layers of paint were removed from each pony and chariot, layer-by-layer, to reveal the original color coat of paint on each piece. Mechanical parts were pieced back together and identical copies of old, worn-out parts were custom made to make the old carousel run again. After one year of operation at the Zoo the carousel horses were in disrepair and were in need of further restoration. A grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program along with funding from the City of Little Rock allowed the horses to be completely restored again with a full protective coating placed on the horses to make them more durable.
Thanks to the hard work of the Friends of the Carousel, the continued generosity of the community and dozens of contributors, the carousel spins again!
Fundraising efforts for the carousel continue, as the carousel requires regular upkeep and maintenance to maintain its beautiful splendor. You can help preserve this historic treasure by making a donation to the Arkansas Zoological Foundation toward the Over-the-Jumps Carousel.
SEE MORE PHOTOS ON THE NATIONAL CAROUSEL ASSOCIATION WEBSITE!
BUY A CAROUSEL BRICK:
If you'd like to contribute to the restoration and continued preservation of the Over-the-Jumps Carousel, then consider purchasing a brick in the carousel plaza at the Little Rock Zoo. Bricks are only $125 and a special inscription of your choice can be engraved on the brick at no additional cost.
For more information, or to purchase a brick, call (501)661-7208.
RIDE THE CAROUSEL:
The Arkansas Carousel is available to ride when visiting the Zoo. Cost is $3 per person.
PLEASE NOTE: During fall & winter months, the carousel may not be in operation for seasonal repairs and maintenance. Please inquire at the ticket counter for information about hours of operation or call (501)661-7218 for information.
BOOK A CAROUSEL PARTY:
Looking for a unique way to celebrate a special occasion?
The Over-the-Jumps Carousel and pavilion area is available to rent for special events.
Contact Guest Services at (501)661-7222 for more information.