VIDEO: Lakeside Park carousel in St. Catharines re-opens this Saturday

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Published May 18, 2022 at 11:24 am

Not many things you can do for five cents these days. But one thing does remain.

The Lakeside Park carousel in St. Catharines reopens on Saturday (May 21) and as it has been for decades, the cost of putting one of your kids (or adults, if you know big kids) is still just a nickel.


The carousel became a little more famous in the Rush song, “Lakeside Park,” when late drummer Neil Peart, penned the lines, “Midway hawkers calling, “Try your luck with me,” Merry-go-round wheezing the same old melody, A thousand ten-cent wonders who could ask for more, A pocketful of silver, the key to heaven’s door.”

The fact is Peart, who lived in St. Catharines, worked at the park as a teenager and he was recalling some pretty recent memories when he wrote those lyrics at the tender age of 22 back in 1975.

But that “Merry-go-round wheezing the same old melody” was, in fact, this very carousel and that same old melody is historic. The music is played by an antique Frati band organ which uses a system of paper music rolls to serenade riders.

Celebrating its 101th anniversary in the park, there were several occasions where St. Catharines nearly lost this completely wood-carved piece of history.

In 1950, Sid Brookson, who had managed Lakeside Park since 1928, purchased the park from the Canadian National Railway. However, by the 1960s, the effects of pollution in the lake were becoming more evident and eventually made the beach unusable.

In 1970, Brookson closed the midway and planned to auction off all the rides, including the carousel. However, a local antiques dealer, Dorothy Crabtree, recognized the importance of the carousel and wanted to see it kept in Lakeside Park.

That same year, she wrote a letter to the local paper, asking simply, “How many people really care what happens to the merry-go-round in Port Dalhousie?” The response from the public was overwhelming.

So the City of St. Catharines agreed to maintain the carousel as city property if the asking price of $25,000 could be raised by the public to purchase it. Crabtree was able to raise $20,000 by the deadline and Brookson lowered his asking price.

On July 13, 1970, Crabtree donated the merry-go-round to the citizens of St. Catharines but it came with a big request. The City had to keep the price at a nickel per ride with that price maintained to this day some 52 years later.

During 2019, the beachfront at Lakeside Park was seriously flooded and the ride had to be shut down. COVID-19 completely shut it down in 2020 and it was open only sporadically last year.

However, 2022 is looking good for the carousel which will be open on weekends from this weekend until Thanksgiving and daily from July 1 to September 5.

 

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