Newly saved merry-go-round is Benners’ showpiece
By POLLY SMITH
County Fair Writer
Most everyone has ridden a merry-go-round at a carnival or amusement park sometime in his or her life. Because someone can stand on the platform and hold the child on a horse, it is often the first ride a toddler takes, waving to whomever is capturing the moment with a camera.
The carousel, with its up-and-down, revolving motion and old-style music draws older riders, too, bringing back memories of summers spent with family or a first date when dares were made to hop up on a painted steed.
Now close your eyes and imagine a merry-go-round, neglected for 20 summers and slowly sinking into the wet sand on a Florida property. The paint was badly chipped on its 20 horses and its star-studded scenery. Its pieces and parts rusted and weather-beaten. Kerry and Christina Benner and family of Penn Valley Shows are proud to present their newly built and painted carousel at the 2013 Huntingdon County Fair. “We saved it from a swamp; well, not really, but it was sinking into the sand and covered with weeds when we went to look at it,” Christina recalled.
They purchased the vintage 1962 amusement ride from a man in Florida who had five of the merry-go-rounds in his collection. The Benners saw beauty below the surface of the ugly duckling and hauled it to their Middleburg, Pa., headquarters to begin restoration. The Benners have been on their own for the past seven years after the retirement of Kerry’s father. As a couple, they have been coming to Huntingdon County for 14 years. Kerry and Christina and their offspring, Chase, 21, Alycia, 20 and Chance, 14, are in their third year at the fair as Penn Valley Shows. Their carnival season, exclusively in Pennsylvania, begins in April and continues until October. The family takes a vacation in November and December, and then begins season preparations in January.
Much of Christina’s time was spent painting the cast aluminum horses – from February to April, beginning about 9 a.m. daily and quitting well past the 11 o’clock news. “I wanted to paint the scenery, too, but my husband said it was too much work and I would not have the time since it needed sanded first,” Christina said. “He was right; I would not have been able to finish it on time.”
They paid a painter to do the white, blue and gold cast aluminum details around the top and in the center.
All 20 horses have names, most with a special meaning. One is Erica, named for Alycia’s best friend who was killed, along with another young girl, in an accident involving a drunk driver. Erica and Alycia were 12 at the time. Another horse carries the name of the late Dan Royer, another special friend.
And, there is Bentley, named by Lauren Houck, granddaughter of fairgrounds supervisor Dan Hawn. The Benners have known Lauren, 6, since her first year as a baby at the fair. The rest of the restoration was a family affair. Kerry did all of the mechanical work on the ride. It has a sound and speaker system to play the appropriate “organ” music. Chase did all the welding on the metal parts and Alycia sanded the horses for her mother. The original investment was $15,000. To make it a carousel again, the Benners spent $75,000 on it. It is now worth close to $125,000.
Chase has studied welding and has decided to be a full-time part of his family’s rides, games and concessions business (hmm, funnel cakes). Likewise, Alycia is attending college and is also a partner. They will each have their own new game trailers at the fair. “My kids have all learned good work ethic,” Christina said. “Some kids don’t know how to count money; mine had to learn to do it and get it right.” A couple of times during a season, conflicting schedules have family members supervising two units in separate places. “We mostly stay together as one whole unit, going from one fair or carnival to the other,” Christina said. “We are anxious to see all of our friends in Huntingdon again.”
Prices hold steady
Rides should be ready to go between 3-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4. The cost per ride is $1. The schedule for the remainder of the week stays the same as last year as follows:
Monday, 5-10 p.m., Wrist Band Special ($12 unlimited rides) is sold. Mega Wrist Bands will be sold Monday only and will be good for the rest of the fair for all rides during normal operating hours. Bands must be kept in place by same person and will be voided with no refund or replacement if removed.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Wrist Band Special or regular tickets for individual rides are in effect.
Friday, 2-5 p.m. Children’s Day Wrist Band Special ($8 unlimited rides; starting at 5 p.m., new Wrist Band Special or tickets for individual rides begin.
Saturday, rides open at 1 p.m. with Wrist Band Specials from 1-5 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. or tickets for individual rides. Except Sunday, all rides take two, three or four tickets.