is a municipal park in downtown Spokane,
Wash. It is not to be confused
with Riverside Park,
also located in Spokane
-- the latter is a state park, more rural in character, on the northwest
outskirts of town. Both "river" parks are named for their adjacency to the Spokane River.
comprises 100 acres on either side of the Spokane
River immediately across from the
heart of downtown Spokane.
This riverfront area has a long and colorful history, dating back to Native
American times. It includes Spokane
Falls, a plunge
particularly dramatic during spring runoff. The islands and riverside land
comprising today's park became part of the railroad industry that fueled Spokane's boom in the
1800s and early to mid-1900s. It was not until its refurbishment in preparation
for the 1974 World's Fair Expo that Riverfront
Park became the vibrant
urban park it is today.
Riverfront's Looff Carrousel
One of the main attractions for any visitor to Riverfront Park is the historic carousel, or "carrousel."
(Carousels designed and built by master craftsman Charles Looff
have historically taken the French spelling, "carrousel.") This
particular carrousel was installed in 1909 as a wedding gift for Looff's daughter. On the National Register of Historic
Places, Spokane's Looff Carrousel has a proud history of its own,
separate from the trajectory of the park.
Carrousel aficionados know the name "Looff" and
understand its import. Looff's carrousels are
hand-carved and highly prized, and the one at Spokane's
is one of America's
most beautiful and well preserved. It features 54 horses, 1 giraffe, 1 tiger,
and 2 dragon chairs. It is also a carrousel on which riders can still attempt
to "catch the brass ring" as they make their counterclockwise orbit.
1909 Launch, 1975 Relaunch
When Charles Looff launched his carrousel on July 18,
1909, it was long before the founding of the Riverfront Park
we know today. The site in those days was known as Natatorium Park.
"Nat Park" operated until 1967, at which time
the carrousel was put in storage. With renewed interest in the park area as a
result of the World's Fair Expo of 1974, the carrousel was brought out of
storage and re-installed in the new park in 1975.
Facts And Figures
Since the Looff Carrousel reopened to visitors in 1975, it has hosted 275,000 riders per year -- over 10
million riders. If you add the estimated 13 million riders from its Nat Park
days, that's over 23 million! This and many more fun facts (number of lights,
number of mirrors, miles traversed by the revolving animals, etc.) are recorded
on the park's website at http://spokaneriverfrontpark.com/.
The website even records facts and figures on the number of tails involved in the
carrousel animals, including replacement statistics and those
involving real horse hair.
About Those Animals
The carrousel's website gives a bit of history about
each and every animal (and seat) on the carrousel. There are three concentric
rows of characters, with many of the flashiest on the outside row. Rainbow
Warrior is a white outside horse named for its rainbow breast plate and
medieval warrior trim. Casper
the Ghost Horse is a gray horse with abundant turquoise trim and a particularly
aggressive posture. Alas, Casper
is also known as the jinx horse, because it is said that he refuses to "jump"
high enough for riders to reach the rings and earn a free ride.
The animals other than horses include a giraffe, a tiger, and a goat, all in
the outside circle, and two double-wide dragon seats. The tiger is a
particularly noteworthy attraction. Said to be one of only three carrousel
tigers in existence in this particular crouching pose, he is the only one
currently displayed on an operational carrousel.
For further information on Riverfront
Park and its Looff Carrousel, see http://spokanecarrousel.org
Sally O'Neal is a travel writer with a home in Spokane, Washington.
She has written for Sportsmansguide.com since 2000.