ROUND AND ROUND IT GOES; PART 2 OF 2
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
When David Mensch set out to find, purchase and restore a carousel for placement at Pioneer Acres, the longtime home of the Menno Pioneer Power Show, he knew it would take more than a little elbow grease to get the job done. But he never imagined the project would be as tedious and time consuming as it has been.
Ten years — that’s a long time.
“This is the first carousel I’ll ever work on and the last,” said Mensch, who found the vintage 1940-1945 machine from a man who lives just south of Milwaukee, Wis. who had inherited it from his father. “It was 100 times more (work) than I thought it would be. The entire ride was junk.”
Today, thanks to a decade of on-again, off-again work by the extended Mensch family and other members of the Menno community, the carousel will once again be turning, serving children and their families when the Pioneer Power Show returns Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26 and 27. The ride, manufactured by the C.W. Parker company and featuring 18 custom-painted Theel horses, will be in operation inside a new, 10-sided building constructed by Kenny and Larry Schaeffer earlier this year. The building is located near the east end of “Main Street” on the Pioneer Acres grounds.
Mensch estimates the last time the ride was in working order was in the early 1990s.
READ PART ONE HERE
Once the machine and horses were brought back to the Mensch farm several miles southwest of Freeman in April of 2010 — the main unit was hooked to a pickup and hauled from Wisconsin while the other pieces and parts were transported in a rented Penske Truck — bringing the carousel back to life was a process that included two key components. One was fixing the aluminum horses that had fallen into disrepair; the other was figuring out the mechanics required to restore the ride to working order.
Fixing the horses and getting them ready for painting and finishing was a 30-to-40-hour process per horse that included work from Shannon Herrboldt at Classic Collision and the artistic touch of Mickey Harris. Each horse has been painted in a primary color scheme chosen by members of the Mensch family — which includes 10 grandchildren — and headed up by David’s wife, Bubbles.
“It takes quite a while,” David said. “We’ve gotten good at it.”
As for the ride, the restoration process was simply trial, error and patience — taking it apart, numbering the pieces, taking photos of the process to figure out how to put it back together.
“It didn’t work and we were intent on finding why,” David says. “We looked and we watched and we discovered the problem.”
While most of the mechanical work was done my Mensch and friends, some of it had to be outsourced; the entire center drive unit, for example, went to a machine shop in Matlock, Iowa for refitting. But David says the local effort has been outstanding and includes the good and generous work of Mike Walter of Walter Welding and Manufacturing.
“He has committed steel, hours of labor and everything else to the carousel building,” David says. “And anytime I needed a part fixed for the carousel itself that he could handle, he did it, and I’ve never seen a bill. He’s been really good.”
The process has been tedious; all the steel was sandblasted and restored, all the mechanics got figured out and fixed and brand-new decking was built.
“If you restored a tractor, you would have one fuel pump, one drive gear for this, one for that, two wheels, four wheels, whatever,” David says. “Here’s it’s 18 of this, 24 of that; there are so damn many parts — over 200 of them.”
But how does he know how to restore a carousel?
“You just pick up a part and fix it, and get another part and fix it, until you get it done,” David says. “We just slowly work on it and think about it and eventually the light goes on and you understand why it is the way it is.”
One of the reasons it’s taken 10 years to get the job done is because David and Bubbles got sidetracked building a new home. But with that recently completed, “we figured now we could get it done.”
And they have.
The carousel now fills the Carousel House, which includes large, open windows so the action inside can be seen by many. The ride has been detailed by Mickey Harris to include a Wizard of Oz theme that follows the story from the tornado through Dorothy’s time in Oz — a story that is repeated every time the carousel turns.
The ride is now the property of Pioneer Acres and the Menno Pioneer Heritage Association, who organizes and oversees the Power Show — a gift from the Mensch family.
“We’re giving them the whole thing,” David says. “We don’t need a carousel.”
While the carousel will be in use this weekend, additional scenery work on the ride will be coming, and funds are needed to see that completed. Those willing to contribute should contact the Mensch family or members of the Menno Pioneer Heritage Association.