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Grab the brass ring at the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky

The grand re-opening of the “Grab the Brass Ring” exhibit will have silent auctions, appetizers, wine, beer, soda, carousel rides, of course, and a special chance to see a part of the museum that won’t be open again this year.
John Benson
Feb 28, 2013

The funny thing about the Merry-Go-Round Museum’s returning exhibit “Grab the Brass Ring,” which opens Friday at the Sandusky museum, comes from the definition of the term.

In a nutshell, very often the outside of carousels had a row of horses that didn’t go up and down. Called standers, nobody wanted to ride those until operators came up with an ingenious plan to lure people into those spots promising the opportunity to win a brass ring, which often would mean a free ride. Thus the phrase “grabbing the brass ring” was born.

The humorous part is just as the brass ring was used to entice people to sit in the standers, the Merry-Go-Round Museum’s “Grab the Brass Ring” exhibit is, well, enticing people with the brass ring to visit the venue.

Want to go?
: Grab the Brass Ring: the Opening Gala
WHEN: 5 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Merry-Go-Round Museum, 301 Jackson St., Sandusky
COST: Free for museum members, $10 for non-members
INFO: www.merrygoroundmuseum.org or 419-626-6111

“We actually have a machine,” Merry-Go-Round Museum Executive Director Veronica Vandenbout said. “We have the arm so you can see how it worked but you can’t actually pull the brass ring.”

The exhibit also features more carousel animals, including the original 1988 stamp horse from Cedar Point’s Kiddy Kingdom carousel. In addition, the Sandusky amusement park has loaned the fabulous Muller military stander from their collection. It’s also known as the Ghost Horse that originally rode the Frontier Town carousel now operated at Dorney Park in Pennsylvania. The carvings will only be at the museum until the beginning of May, before returning to Cedar Point’s Town Hall Museum.

“The carousel is one of those rides that everyone can enjoy,” Vandenbout said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 85. Everybody enjoys the carousel. It’s something that generations can share. Most of us remember riding a carousel as a kid and either mom or dad standing next to you. It’s just a memory that you can continue to build on.”

Another attraction of the special opening exhibit is the chance to see the museum’s restoration studios and paint shops, a chance that won’t come around a second time this year. Kate Adam, the museum’s artist in residence will be in her studio answering questions and demonstrating her amazing ability to create carousel art. Carvers and restoration specialists will also be in their studio explaining how the restoration process works. The museum’s curator Kurri Lewis will provide tours of the archives/library to those interested in the reference side of carousel history.

“It’s a reopening of our gallery exhibit for the season,” Vandenbout said. “It’s an opportunity for folks to see all of the building rather than just the gallery part of the museum. We don’t normally do this.”

The event is open to the public with admission including light hors d’oeuvres, wine, silent auction and entertainment provided by Bryan Thom.

“I hope people come out as a connection to the amusement park history that’s been so vital to the north coast,” Vandenbout said. “And spring is around the corner. When you start the season every year you think, ‘What are we in for?’ It’s just the start of that rollercoaster ride.”