Kings Island

The Grand Carousel


I have long loved carousels, believing them to be  the most elegant of amusement park rides. The Grand Carousel at Kings Island was built in 1926 and I remember, even as a little girl, imagining those in the late 1920s and early 1930s riding it—children, adults, everyone happy.






The carousel is painted with more than 20,000 sheets of 23-karat gold and 1,000 sheets of sterling silver—I love the painted scenes and as a young girl I spent many a hot summer afternoons dreaming about living in them.



We sought shelter under the carousel during a long thunderstorm. Two older men were operating the ride—and beautifully singing the old-fashioned words to the songs coming from the carousel’s organ into their microphones. They both acknowledged the fact that we kept getting off the ride and getting back on. Because the ride was quite empty they insisted we just stay on for the duration of the storm. Sophie loved this.




As did the boys.

I think we rode the carousel at least six times. Maybe more.


And if you count the smaller one in the kid area, well, it was probably close to 20.

Sophie still talks about the carousel, almost daily. She likes to play “Kings Island” in our entry at home, although she often calls it “Kings Land.” We sit on the area rug and pretend we’re on the horses, going up and down, or on another ride, going “super fast.” Grandma is particularly good at this game.

I see so much of myself in Sophie. Especially, though, when she’s doing things I did as a little girl, such as riding the Grand Carousel. Maybe it’s the memories. Maybe it’s what happens when you’re a mother. Maybe it’s just the cyclical nature of things, which Joni Mitchell put so well: “And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round. And the painted ponies go up and down. We’re captive on the carousel of time. We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came. And go round and round and round in the circle game.”

“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around—and why his parents will always wave back.” —William D. Tammeus

Kings Island


As a child, my sister, brother and I got passes to Kings Island for Christmas every other year. In high school, I spent two summers working at Kings Island. The first summer I sold baseball caps and mini baseball bats in an outdoor “dugout” at a sports memorabilia store. The second summer I was in charge of several souvenir stands throughout the park (and, as such, got to play with dry ice—which we used to pack glow-in-the-dark necklaces—on a daily basis).


It had been a long time since I had been to the park. But the sights, sounds, smell—it was all the same. So many memories.


It was incredibly hot, the day we chose to go (with Lizz and Eric, and their friends, although they spent their time riding the adult rides while we, obviously, stuck with the Sophie-friendly rides).





Sophie only tried three rides. The carousel, the swings and this helicopter thing that followed a high-above-ground track around the park.


We decided to cool off in a theater, where we watched a Snoopy on Ice show. James loved Linus, who was standing outside.


He also loved the show, constantly dancing and clapping on Andy’s lap. (Owen sat on my lap, still and mesmerized.)


Sophie slept.


After the show Sophie attempted to walk through a water thing. She flipped out, about halfway through, refusing to go forward (through a water wall) and refusing to go back the way she had come (where she had been blasted with water). So I had to rescue her. And lift her over some landscaping and a fence, and endure glares from people working the “ride.” Here she is, happy to be out of the storm.


We endured a real storm (more on that later) and grabbed some ice cream before the second round of storm clouds moved in. Despite how hot it was the boys were so, incredibly, well behaved. And Sophie had a great time. Andy and I, honestly, were expecting the worst—thinking we’d pay a lot of money for what would end up being a very short trip. But we stayed for hours. Sometimes, things do work out the way you want them to.

“If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.” —Nadine Stair