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A Spin on the Elk City Centennial Carousel

77 Counties



Their Heads Strain Against Invisible Reins, neck veins bulging, nostrils flaring, teeth bared, forelegs frozen in mid-gallop. Some have the look of noble steeds apparated from an ancient bedtime tale, emblazoned with a sleepy crescent moon or a chubby-cheeked sun. Others are born of the American West, bedecked with feather regalia and bridles dripping turquoise and coral, hooves skimming just above the plains.

There are 36 horses in all, arranged in 12 rows of three, and a couple of chariots for the faint of heart. All are carved out of basswood and hand-painted.

As the strains of World War I-era music float from a digital sound system with hidden speakers, the horses glide ahead, bobbing up and down on solid brass poles. They circle and glimmer beneath a carved canopy of mirror-holding angels, reflecting the light of 600 incandescent bulbs illuminating the pride of Elk City: its Centennial Carousel.

As planning was underway for the city’s 100th birthday, the initial talk was of statues and parades. But a thought began to gain hold. What if Elk City did something more durable, something really different?

Then-City Manager Guy Hylton summed up the thinking before the carousel’s dedication in 2001: “I remember when we celebrated our 75th anniversary. We had a pageant and lots of food. But when it was all over, there was nothing left to show for it. For our centennial, we wanted something more permanent, something citizens could interact with and something that would last for years to come.”

The result? The $450,000 Centennial Carousel, which creator Daniel Horenberger of Brass Ring Entertainment in California has called “the most elaborate all-wood carousel built since the 1930s.”

For the past 12 summers, the merry-go-round has revolved in Ackley Park, adjacent to the Route Elk City has never shied away from dreaming big. The largest city in Beckham County is the hometown of nationally known performers ranging from multi-Grammy winner Jimmy Webb to Miss America Susan Powell, to Broadway star and four-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara.

During 1901, when it was established in anticipation of the arrival of the Choctaw and Gulf Railroad, the settlement tried out three names to see which fit best. Crowe came first. Entrepreneurs, however, soon ditched the name in favor of Busch, in hopes of luring jobs and a new brewery from Anheuser-Busch. When that failed, the unfazed town leaders switched the name again, to Elk City.

By the next year, the population had grown to 1,000, and soon the town streets were paved in brick. The two-story Ten Thousand Club Building was constructed on the corner of Broadway and Jefferson two months before statehood to headquarter the Ten Thousand Club. Its mission: to increase the town’s population to 10,000.

Current population: 11,789.

66 Museum complex off I-40, every evening from 6 ’til 10. The ride is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, and again around Christmas. Price: one dollar per ride.

Some of the favorite horses now have chipped paint or worn surfaces from being patted and spurred and caressed. The mount with the carved pistol is the most loved of all, a veteran of hundreds of imaginary quick-draw gunfights.

After the ride slows to a halt, some of the riders jump off to pay and ride again, passing the brass plaque out front: “A gift from the twentieth century Elk Citians to the Elk Citians of the twenty-first century.”

They remount and giddy-up in circles above the old Cheyenne Arapaho grounds, awash in the gold of a Western Oklahoma summer sunset.



Editor’s Note: This is the 12th installment in a continuing series as author and photographer M.J. Alexander chronicles her travels across the state of Oklahoma.

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Calendar

September 2018

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Organizations making a positive impact on the health of Oklahomans will be honored at the 2018 Champions of Health Gala. All proceeds benefit the Oklahoma Caring Foundation, a non-profit...

Cost: TBD

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Sponsor: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma
Telephone: 918.551.2164
Contact Name: Ellen Devereux

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Take Steps is the Foundation’s largest nationwide fundraising event where patients, loved ones, friends and supporters empower and inspire each other to continue the fight against...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Sponsor: Crohn's & Colitis Foundation
Telephone: 972.386.0607
Contact Name: Jackie Peterson
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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