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Little Rock Zoo carousel earns historic designation

Little Rock Zoo Director Susan Altrui speaks in front of the historic "Over-the-Jumps" carousel.
Daniel Breen
Little Rock Zoo Director Susan Altrui speaks in front of the historic "Over-the-Jumps" carousel.

One of central Arkansas’ oldest attractions is getting new recognition for its historical significance.

Officials with the Little Rock Zoo announced Tuesday that the “Over-the-Jumps” carousel has been awarded the 2020 Historic Award by the National Carousel Association. The ride was first exhibited at the Arkansas State Fair in 1924 and has had various owners over the years before being donated to the Little Rock Zoo in 2007.

Little Rock business owner David Martinous chaired the Friends of the Carousel group throughout efforts to restore the ride. He said the award recognizes the carousel’s unique place in history.

“Little Rock and Arkansas are so fortunate to have the only carousel like this in the entire world. We must keep at it, keep it going, keep it turning, so generation after generation can enjoy this wonderful ride,” Martinous said.

The ride is the only surviving example of an undulating carousel, which takes riders on hills and valleys as they go around. Little Rock Zoo Director Susan Altrui said the designation will help continue the carousel’s upkeep, making it possible for future generations to enjoy.

“Restoration of the horses, the chariots, the track and the carousel components is ongoing, it is time-consuming, and it is costly. The zoo has established a maintenance fund to help contribute to this process,” Altrui said. “We are also fortunate that the Arkansas Heritage Commission has helped us in this endeavor. We’ve also had partners such as the Little Rock Civitan Club and other partners in the nonprofit community that have helped us along the way.”

According to the National Carousel Association, the annual historic award is given based on historic significance, innate quality of character, a proven program of restoration and maintenance, a regular schedule of operation, a regular schedule of operation in the same location for the past five years, and an owner or support group likely to ensure that the carousel will continue to be available to the public as an operating machine.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.