SARANAC LAKE - The Adirondack Carousel has already given thousands of rides in its first two months of operation.
It's also had a crop of unexpected visitors. Literally.
Patches of wild turnips are growing on part of the lawn in front of the carousel building in William Morris Park. Carousel Executive Director Paula Hameline said she didn't know about it until recently.
Myndy Woodruff, left, and Marty Rowley put up the sign for the Adirondack Carousel, which Woodruff carved, on Tuesday, while carousel Executive Director Paula Hameline watches from the ground.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"I asked the village when they were going to mow the lawn," Hameline said. "I said, 'It's like a garden out there. It looks like we're growing carrots and beets.' Then, the next day, someone came up and pulled out this turnip and said, 'Did you know you're growing these gourmet turnips in your front lawn?' I said, 'You've got to be kidding.'
"It's kind of funny. People are picking them and taking them home. They're like gourmet turnips. That's what this lady told me. They picked whole plastic bags full. I'm like, 'Have at it.'"
Hameline figured turnip seeds must have been included in fill dirt the village put in the park before the carousel's opening in late May.
But village Manager John Sweeney said the village didn't bring in the fill for that part of the park. The village did put composted soil on the other side of the lawn and then hydroseeded the whole thing.
"We did not bring the soil in there; they bought it," he said. "We did spread it, but I don't know where they got it from.
"I heard about it from one of our staff yesterday," Sweeney added. "They were mowing the lawn and were both looking at each other going, 'What is that stench?' And they pulled up these weeds, and I guess they've got turnips."
While the turnips are a curiosity, the carousel itself, which features 18 hand-carved, Adirondack-themed animals, is proving to be a big draw so far, Hameline said.
"It's exceeded everyone's expectations on how busy we'd be," she said. "We've done over 8,700 rides at this point. Sometimes we have 600 in a weekend. We're hoping to hit 10,000 by the end of this week. It's going great."
That's more than 200 rides per day that the carousel has been opened. It initially operated on weekends only through the month of June. Since July 1, the carousel has been running six days a week, a schedule that will continue through at least the end of August.
"It's hard to have a closed day," Hameline said. "I usually don't work on Tuesdays, when we're closed, because I end up running the carousel the whole time I'm here. Everybody's got a story, and they've traveled, and they've brought the grandkids, and it's hard to see the little faces at the windows and say, 'You can't ride,' so I let people in."
From her own observations, Hameline said there have actually been more adults than children riding the carousel so far. She also said the spinoff from visitors arriving at Union Depot on tourist trains from Lake Placid has been a big plus.
"You can see a huge difference in our day when the train doesn't run," she said. "They don't run on Monday. It's much less."
In addition to the people who've come to take a spin on the carousel for $2 a ride, Hameline said they've already hosted half a dozen birthday parties, with several more planned in the fall, and many different groups.
"We've done school outings, mostly for handicapped kids in wheelchairs, many of whom have never been on amusement rides before," she said. "They were thrilled. We have another one (today). We've done a lot of senior outings. We had a class reunion come this weekend. We had the tandem bikers. We're even hosting an after-wedding brunch. I think there's things that are happening that people didn't even imagine originally that they thought we could do."
The carousel also plans to host several programs in the fall, including carving programs, a program on the history of carousels and nature programs based on the carousel's animals.
Other work is still going on around the carousel building. A new Adirondack Carousel sign was put up over the building's entrance on Tuesday. It was built by woodcarver Myndy Woodruff, a Waitsfield, Vt., resident who has a second home on Kiwassa Lake. Woodruff also made the frames for the scenic pictures and the signs that adorn the carousel's rounding boards. More paver stones, which have been sold as a carousel fundraiser and customized with the names of family and loved ones, will be put up around the building Aug. 14.
As for the carousel's surprise turnip crop, Hameline says she's not sure what the village plans to do with the lawn.
"Are we going to continue to grow turnips? I don't know," she said. "For now, I'm trying to spin it positive. I think it's funny."
Sweeney said he doesn't know what the village will do.
"I think if we just keep it mowed, we're going to obviously kill them," he said. "But I don't know. I've got to go down and take a look for myself."