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Photo of a gold and blue horse on a carousel
Horse from the Looff Carousel, East Providence, Rhode Island

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Looff Carousel
A Local Legacy

Take a ride on a work of art by hopping onto a carousel! Hand-made carousels, also called merry-go-rounds, are a form of folk art that was once very popular. Unfortunately, many early handmade carousels have been disassembled and sold off in pieces.

The Looff Carousel at Crescent Park in East Providence, Rhode Island, is one of the few handmade carousels still in use. It was designed and built in 1895 by Charles I.D. Looff, a native of Denmark, who was one of the earliest and most important manufacturers of carousels. Still functioning on its original site more than 100 years later, the Looff Carousel is one of the finest surviving examples of a once common American folk art. Because of its cultural significance, the Looff Carousel was entered into the National Register of Historic Sites and Places on April 21, 1976.

Did you know there is a lead horse on a carousel? According to carousel legend, the lead horse is always the biggest, most decorative horse. Often the lead horse is a military or war horse. If a chariot (a two or four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage) is included in the carousel, the first horse just behind it on the outside is the lead horse. On some carousels, the horses move up and down as if they were galloping, so riders get a sense of what it is like to ride a real horse. Next time you get the chance, hop onto a carousel, you may even get to ride the lead horse!

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