Millie Compton, former museum president, took Sarah and Johnny to Broad Ripple Park often in the late 40s, early 50s. Her young children loved riding the carousel in the park. They eventually moved. But upon returning a few years later, Millie walked by the park and noticed the carousel was gone. Unfortunately in 1956, the roof of the pavilion covering the carousel collapsed and destroyed the carousel’s operating mechanism and scenery panels. Luckily, the carousel animals were left unscathed and given to the Indianapolis Parks Department.
Millie Compton asked the Parks Department for the animals. They gave her two. She was persistent in acquiring the rest of the animals, and eventually did. By 1970, the parks department donated an additional 33 animals. Still missing were three reindeer and two horses. The reindeer were discovered in 1973 at the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show, standing in for Santa’s sleigh team. Millie reminded park officials that those “reindeer” were hers. The three stags were eventually delivered.
Despite the original intention to just put a few animals on display, and sell some to restore the rest, Millie was convinced by carousel enthusiasts to restore the entirety of the beloved Broad Ripple Park Carousel. In November of 1975, with a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a new Mangels-Illions mechanism and a newly constructed platform were installed in the southwest corner of the museum’s fourth floor. These pieces were joined by an old Wurlitzer band organ obtained in San Francisco brought to Indiana with a $7,400 donation from the Clowes Fund. With the platform and pieces in place, one by one, the animals were installed on the fourth floor of the museum.
Fast forward to 2000—An exhibit was built around the Carousel, reimagining it under the spotlight of a starry sky. Carousel Wishes & Dreams opened in 2000, and that’s when the Carousel animal adoption program came to be. Now, you can pick an animal with a cool name like “Pete” or “Joy Bell” to ride. The adopters (donors), along with many others, help the Carousel bring smiles and rides to over 200,000 kids a year—and now for 100 years!
There are still some carousel animals to adopt, but here’s a list of some of the most beloved animals and the extraordinary donors who named them. Next time you're on the carousel, take a peek at your feet! You may find a plaque honoring the donors who adopted that particular animal—and maybe even its name, too!
- Row 2, Outside: Mary Ann & Gene Zink. In honor of their grandchildren William, Madeleine & Hollins Donahue
- Row 6, Outside: Tony & Liz Heyworth. In honor of their grandchildren, Kaylie, Samantha, Alexis, Anthony, Drake, Liv & Brooks
- Row 10, Outside: Gina & Jim Bremner. In honor of their boys, Matthew and Josh
- Row 10, Inside: SPARKLE. In honor of Kasey, Josh, Katharine, and Emmy Wakefield
- Row 12, Outside: John & Judy Cooke. In honor of their grandchildren, John, Claire, Kevin, Anna and David Cooke
- Row 12, Middle: ZEALANDER. In honor of Annie Kruse
- Row 12, Inside: STONY POINT. In honor of Matthew, Tyler, Ashlie, Sadie, and Chloe Lacy
- Row 14, Outside: Larry R. Geddes in loving memory of his parents Robert & Bonnie Geddes
- Row 5, Outside: PETE. In Memory of Abraham S. Jacobs, 1883 to 1990
- Row 7, Outside: Hans & Nila Steck. In memory of Patricia Steck
- Row 13, Outside: JOY BELL. In Honor of Joy and Johnny Johnson
- GOAT—Row 3, Outside: TEDDY
- DEER—Row 6, Outside: BOREALIS
- GIRAFFE—Row 11, Outside: ETHAN
- TIGER—Row 9, Outside: RAJAH. The Ruddell Family
- LION—Row 1, Outside: L.H.