On the south shore of Lake Ontario in N.Y. State, you’ll discover the quaint Hamlet of Olcott Beach. In the shadow of Olcott’s famous Lighthouse is a wonderful vintage amusement park. It features a 1928 style Hershell-Spillman two row carousel. Five vintage kiddie rides, and a wonderful 1931 Wurlitzer band organ. Come relive fond memories as your children and grandchildren scream in delight and giggle with laughter!
Olcott Beach Carousel Park, Inc. is a not-for profit corporation that was formed for the purpose of creating an historic amusement park reminiscent of the 1940-1950’s era. It is at 5979 Main Street Olcott at the site of the 1940’s Olcott Amusement park. This is the eleventh year of operation.The corporation is made up of volunteers from the community and Rosemary Sansone serves as its chairman. The volunteers devote countless hours toward developing and maintaining this vintage 1940’s kiddy theme park.The original 1940’s carousel building was restored and furnished with a 1928 Allan Herschell carousel. This carousel closely resembles the original carousel which was operated in the building from the 1940’s – 80’s. In addition to the carousel, the park has five vintage kiddy rides: a 1946 Allen Herschell Kiddy Auto / Fire Truck Ride (originally from Olcott), a 1940’s Allen Herschell Sky Fighter, a 1940’s Boat Ride, a 1950’s Rocket Swing Ride and a kiddy Ferris Wheel (originally located at the Whistle Pig in Niagara Falls). The cost per ride is 25 cents.
Large murals are displayed in the two kiddie ride pavilions that feature scenes from Olcott Beach’s past. The park also has a 1934 Wurlitzer Band Organ and engraved brick pathways (the public can purchase bricks for the pathways). A vintage arcade is housed in a reproduction of the historic Boeckmann Studio and four skee ball machines are located in the east ride pavilion as well as rocking chairs. The recently built Tom Kelley Rustic Theater is a replica of the Rustic Theater from the early 1900’s that was once located in nearby Krull Park. It is used for special events to entertain patrons. Anyone who would like to volunteer can call Rosemary Sansone (778-7066). Barb Colley (778-8284), Debbie Hahn (433-0821), or inquire at the ticket booth in Olcott Beach Carousel Park.
In 1999, a small committee was formed from the Krull Olcott Development Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Rosemary Sansone and began to fundraise to restore the carousel roundhouse building on the site of the former Olcott Amusement Park. Members of that committee were Jane Voelpel, Tom Kelley, and Kelly Artieri. The Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce, under the chairmanship of David Kinyon, dramatically helped the project by making the restoration its Project Pride 2001 and helped in raising funds and in-kind services for the restoration. The roundhouse restoration project director was Tom Kelley and the clerk of the works was Bill Eaton. The restoration was completed in 2002. At this time, Olcott Beach became the site for one of the sculptures featured in Art on Wheels. This sculpture is titled One Tired Horse by artist John Dee and still stands in the park today.
The committee grew and immediately began fundraising to purchase a vintage carousel similar to the original one that was in the carousel building in the ‘40’s. Committee members at that time were: Rosemary Sansone (Chairman), Jane Voelpel (Vice Chairman), Tom Kelley (Treasurer), Derek Howe (Secretary), Jim Sansone, Joanne Kelley, Nelson & Barbara Colley, Bill Eaton, David Kinyon, Carol Alabiso, Kathleen & Tom Boyd, Jim & Dottie Timkey, Diane Rosenberg, Ed Sandusky, Ralph Wolfe, Bill Henderson, Brenda Pichey, Kathy Mathewson, Pam Henderson, Hope Seager, Carly Paterson, Darmar Trouse, John & Ann Raskopf, Warren Rathke, Jim Ward, David Prosser, Jane Rathke, Doloros Stinson, Alice Smith, Bernie Sturak, Linda Rosenbaum, and Mike Pinkham.
Dave Robb of Fun City Amusements put an announcement in the Carousel Trader asking for pictures of the former Olcott Amusement Park so that the committee could use them to help restore the roundhouse. Jack Campbell from Culver, Indiana answered the announcement. He told Rosemary Sansone that he did not have any pictures, but he did have a kiddy car ride that came from the New Rialto Park in Olcott. The New Rialto was an amusement park that was open during the same era as the Olcott Amusement Park. Both were on Main St. in Olcott. Rosemary told Jack that the committee would love to have the ride, but they were looking for a carousel. Jack responded that he also had a restored 1928 Herschell-Spillman carousel as well as four vintage kiddy rides.
A contract was signed and the horses and chariot were put up for adoption to help purchase the carousel. Outside horses cost $2500, inside horses $1500, ponies $1000, the chariot $4000, and the lead horse was auctioned for $7000. The names of the donors appear above each horse on the carousel. The carousel looked exactly like the original 1920’s style Herschell carousel that was operated in the roundhouse from the 1940’s – 1980’s except that it was a two-row carousel instead of a three-row. The newly restored roundhouse and carousel’s grand opening was on May 17, 2003. Three men, who had operated the carousel at the Olcott Amusement Park fifty years prior, operated it on that opening day in 2003. They were Ed Sandusky, Al Wilson, and Jim Updegrove. A special song, The Carousel Song, was written by Jim Sansone and performed by the Newfane Elementary music students for the event.
In 2003, the west pavilion was built and three of the vintage kiddy rides from Culver were purchased and set up in the building. These rides are the Skyfighter, the Kiddy Car/Fire Truck ride (formerly from Olcott), and the Boat Ride. In 2004, the east pavilion was built and the Rocket Swing ride was installed. This pavilion also hosts four Skee Ball machines and eight rocking chairs as well as tables and chairs for the convenience of guests. Also purchased in 2004 through a grant from Sr. George Maziarz was a 1934 Wurlitzer Band Organ.
A replica of a studio belonging to John Boeckmann, a famous photographer in Olcott from the early 1900’s was built to house vintage arcade games in 2006. In 2007, a kiddy Ferris wheel that had been operated at the former Whistle Pig in Niagara Falls, was purchased, restored and erected in the park.
The Tom Kelley Rustic Theater was built in 2008 and named for Tom Kelley, one of the original committee members, who passed away. The theater has special events for children and families throughout the season. In 2009, the east and west ride pavilions were enclosed to protect the kiddy rides.
Olcott Beach Carousel Park charges 25¢ for a ride on the carousel or any of the five kiddy rides. It is able to do this because the park is run entirely by volunteers. This includes maintenance, administrative work, as well as running the rides. It also has three fundraisers per year to help make park improvements, help with insurance costs, and maintaining the park. Presently, the park was given a grant through the Grigg-Lewis Foundation to hire students to help operate the rides in July and August. The park became a not for profit corporation in 2002. Present officers are Dr. Rosemary Sansone, president and secretary; Jane Voelpel, vice president; and Gary Cammarata, treasurer. Olcott Beach Carousel Park has helped to change Olcott from an eyesore to an eye opener!
Olcott Beach Carousel Park charges 25¢ for a ride on the carousel or any of the five kiddy rides.
Hours of Operation:
Memorial Day Weekend – Saturday, Sunday, Monday 12 noon – 6 p.m.
June – Saturday 12 – 8 p.m. and Sunday 12 – 6 p.m.
July through Labor Day – Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday 12 – 6 p.m., Saturday 12 – 8 p.m., Labor Day 12 – 6 p.m.
Address: 5979 Main Street Olcott, NY 14126
Phone: (716) 778-7066 or (716) 778-8284