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New Ferris wheel rounds out attractions in Queens' Forest Park

Also known as the Woodhaven Wheel, the ride dates back almost 70 years, but the seats, gears and important safety features are updated and specially-made.

The Forest Park Carousel will soon be joined

The Forest Park Carousel will soon be joined by a Ferris wheel for children.  Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The Forest Park Carousel does not want to be the only game in town.

A historic, kiddie Ferris wheel has moved next to the landmarked merry-go-round and will officially open this weekend. It joins several other attractions at the Queens location as operators hope to create a destination in the leafy park.

“Carousels and Ferris wheels go hand in hand,” said Daeshawn Grimes, manager for the site known as the Forest Park Carousel Amusement Village. “What we are trying to do here is make it into an experience. And the park is just beautiful.”

The Ferris wheel, now dubbed the Woodhaven Wheel, came from Pennsylvania, where it was part of a traveling carnival.

Its frame dates back almost 70 years, but the seats, gears and important safety features are updated and specially-made.

“The mechanics of it are all brand new,” Grimes said.

Considered one of the city’s hidden jewels, the Forest Park Carousel is a hand-carved treasure that dates back to the early 1900s and is believed by experts to be priceless.

Despite the fact it is located just feet away from bustling Woodhaven Boulevard, many people do not know the carousel is there.

There are 46 wood horses, three menagerie animals and two chariots. Most of the figures were crafted by master carver Daniel Muller, known for his detailed and realistic depictions of horses.

But maintaining the carousel has been a challenge since it arrived in the park over 45 years ago. It is owned by the city Parks Department and run through concession contracts. Some operators neglected its upkeep and even those who restored it had trouble making money.

Fearing the beloved ride would be shut down for good or sold off, community groups mounted an aggressive campaign to save the carousel in 2009.

NY Carousel Entertainment signed on as a concessionaire in 2012 and quickly won the support of civic leaders. The company operates the busy carousel in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and other amusements in the city.

“Everyone is really excited for the debut of the Woodhaven Wheel,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, who helped lead the campaign to save the carousel. “The kids are going to love going up amongst the trees. I wish I was a kid again.”

Grimes is urging members of the public to come out on Saturday and Sunday for a free celebration to kick off the season. There will be music, games, musicians and a dance party starting at noon each day.

“We are here for the community,” Grimes said. “We just want people to come out and enjoy themselves.”

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