Adirondack Carousel reopens
New director, Sara Francis, has become proficient carousel mechanic
SARANAC LAKE — After more than three months of lying dormant for repairs, the Adirondack Carousel will spin again on Friday, and on Saturday, organizers will host a reopening event with popcorn and free rides for everyone.
Sara Francis, the new carousel executive director, is excited to reopen after she’s put hours and hours of work into repairing the problems that caused it to shut down in late September. She said a bunch of little things added up to “major mechanical issues.”
The state Department of Labor inspected the carousel on Tuesday and deemed the repair work done, she said.
Francis has been the Adirondack Carousel’s executive director since July 1. She had only worked there for around two months when she took over for previous director Ashley Milne, a Harrietstown council member, who left the position this summer to spend more time on her town and family roles.
Francis became a carousel expert in the following few months, learning the workings of the giant machine inside and out — literally.
Stepping inside the decorative rotunda that encases the machinery that turns the rideable skunks, bears and snowshoe hares, Francis said she’d never worked with gears, bearings or motors before she took charge of the carousel.
“It’s not something I ever thought I would be doing,” Francis said. “I studied massage therapy in college, so it’s a very different field. But I love it.”
Francis moved to Saranac Lake from Fort Covington six years ago to attend North Country Community College. When she saw a job opening at the carousel this summer, she thought it’d be fun to work there. Now, she’s running the place and keeping the woodland creatures spinning.
“Apparently I’ve got a knack for it,” she said.
On Tuesday, her hands were greasy from leaning on the thick chain connecting the motor to the arms. She deftly scaled the rungs and bars above the center rotunda, climbing through them like a lattice jungle-gym. She spoke knowledgeably about re-timing crank shafts and replacing pillow bearings.
“It’s a simple machine, ultimately,” Francis said. “But there’s a lot more than people might think that goes into it.”
The 4,000 pound carousel is turned by the rotation of a single gear in the center column. The engine was over-revving this fall, Francis said, and one day, four sprocket pins broke off of the gear during a morning test run. It wouldn’t turn anymore.
She replaced these parts, installed a brake system and replaced the bearings for the the inside animals. The inside animals need their bearings replaced sooner than the outside ones because they experience more centrifugal force as the carousel spins, Francis explained.
She got some help throughout the process from family and Adirondack Carousel maintenance manger Martin Rowley.
Francis said a carousel-sized hole was left in the organization’s finances when it closed. The majority of its income comes from its riders, she said. In the dry months, people from the community have been donating to help keep the organization stable and Francis said she’s grateful for their support.
Riders of the reopened carousel will have a longer, slower ride now. Francis said the carousel now turns for 3.5 minutes, a minute longer than before. Its speed has also been toned down from 5 miles per hour to 3 miles per hour. This speed is easier for the carousel’s youngest and oldest riders, she said.
The reopening event Saturday scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.