Merry-go-round celebrates 40 years in town

CANBERRA’S iconic merry-go-round in Petrie Plaza celebrated its 40th year in the capital today with free rides, popcorn and fairy floss along with the sound of the antique German automatic pipe organ that was originally imported to accompany it on the St Kilda waterfront, where it resided until 1974.

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Photos by Stephen Easton

Territory and Municipal Services minister Shane Rattenbury also announced today that a specialist nonprofit group called LEAD, which supports people with disabilities, will run the merry-go-round for the next three years at least.

“This is a great outcome, as it will not only ensure that the merry-go-round continues to be available to residents and visiting tourists, but that the opportunity to work in a commercial environment is provided to people with a disability,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Tia Evangelista, 3, loves to ride the merry-go-round.

Tia Evangelista, 3, loves to ride the merry-go-round.

“Operating the merry-go-round will allow LEAD to provide 12 full-time, part-time and casual positions to their staff, with additional seasonal work available.

“We were looking for an operator that not only wanted a financial return on their investment but a social return on investment as well, and that’s exactly what LEAD offered. On top of that, LEAD has been operating the merry-go-round on a trial basis since September 2012 and is, therefore, across how to best operate the attraction so as to ensure its preservation.”

Australian Railway Historical Society ACT general manager Alan Gardner, left, with Simon Corbell.

Australian Railway Historical Society ACT general manager Alan Gardner, left, with Simon Corbell.

The occasion was also used by Environment and Sustainable Development minister Simon Corbell to launch the 2014 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival, and announce the opening of applications for the annual round of heritage grants.

Mr Corbell said that despite the Centenary year being over, there would be plenty of smaller centenaries to celebrate, such as the 100th anniversary of the first steam train’s arrival in Canberra in 1914, which has inspired the theme of this year’s Heritage Festival: “Journeys”.

A Gebrueder Bruder 69 Keyless Elite Apollo Orchestra Organ, built in Germany in 1910 and shipped to St Kilda to play with the merry-go-round.

A Gebrueder Bruder 69 Keyless Elite Apollo Orchestra Organ, built in Germany in 1910 and shipped to St Kilda to play with the merry-go-round.

“The Australian Railway Historical Society has a number of events associated with the 1914 arrival of the first steam train – including the actual train – and will partner with Capital Metro and Archives ACT to provide a children’s activity called Canberra’s Rail Trail, where children can explore the role and paths of trains over the last century,” Mr Corbell said.

“As part of the Heritage Festival, close to 100 festival events will showcase what makes our region special with tours, workshops, talks, open days, dances, high teas and special children’s activities.”

Dominic Lavers performed a song insipred by the merry-go-round.

Dominic Lavers performed a song inspired by the merry-go-round.

“With many events designed for children, the festival is a wonderful way to introduce children to our history and help them begin their own journey in discovering how our past influences our present and future.”

The party also featured a song inspired by the merry-go-round’s role as a meeting place for friends, written and performed by former Centenary public relations officer Dominic Lavers, who now works at Tuggeranong Arts Centre.

Political spin... Simon Corbell rides the merry-go-round.

Political spin… Simon Corbell rides the merry-go-round.

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