C.W. Parker's carousel factory likely turned out hundreds of painted carousel horses during its life in Leavenworth during the early 20th century.
Now volunteers at the Leavenworth museum that honors Parker's legacy here are hoping that businesses in Leavenworth will paint a few themselves, albeit on a smaller scale.
The museum has 35 miniature carousel horses, based on a design by museum director and wood carver Jerry Reinhardt, ready to be distributed to any business that wants to take one and paint with a custom design. Nancy Klemp, a museum volunteer, said the idea was partly inspired the custom painted Kansas City cows that were displayed throughout the area a few years ago to promote regional tourism. A few businesses have already signed up by visiting the museum, 320 S. Esplanade St. in Leavenworth.
“Come in and sign for it and go,” said Larry Everitt, another Parker museum volunteer, about the process. “It's open, whatever they want to do.”
Starting Aug. 1, Klemp said the businesses will display the finished horses, along with a brief explanation of the project and a change jar, in their buildings until the first week of September.
“What we're going to do at some point before that is tell people, put a list in the newspaper, and say go by these places, see which ones you like best,” Klemp said. “Put your money in to vote. Because the people's choice award (the winner of which will be the jar with the most money) is going to be important.”
A “Best in Show” award will be judged by the attendees of the National Carousel Association convention, which will bring carousel enthusiasts into the city starting Sept. 24. The winner of that round of judging will be named during the convention, Klemp said. The winners will likely be auctioned at that time.
Afterward, she said the businesses will get the first chance to buy their creations back. Those that are not sold back to the businesses at that time will be sold in the gift shop at the museum.
Klemp said the participating artists are encouraged to decorate their horse with designs unique to their business or group.
The proceeds will benefit the museum, but Klemp said that's not the primary motivation for the effort.
“We're not that concerned about making that much money,” she said. “We're concerned about getting the carousel out to the public. Because a lot of new people don't know what it is.”