When Hazel Patton tried to get a carousel built in Riverfront Park, there wasn’t space in the park’s master plan.
It was 1996, and Salem’s city council gave a small group of volunteers led by Patton the green light — provided they could use an oddly-shaped parcel of park land.
“This was to be a clocktower. Bleh,” Patton said at a Saturday event honoring her work to bring the Riverfront Carousel to Salem. The crowd laughed.
Patton recounted the moment while explaining how the beloved Salem carousel ended up in a building shaped “something like a fat fish.”
“We used every, every inch of that spot, but that’s what we got,” Patton said.
Now, the irregular structure carries Patton’s name, a recognition of her work to make the carousel happen in Salem. When the building opened in 2001, Patton resisted having her name on it, saying the carousel belonged to the community, but friends persuaded the 89-year-old last fall that it was time to honor her work.
“She has watched and that woman has applauded as other people have been honored with their names on the keepsakes in this park,” said Caren Ann Jackson, the carousel’s first executive director, speaking at the dedication Saturday.
The brief recognition for Patton kicked off the carousel’s 22nd birthday event, with $1 rides, sno cones and other treats for park goers.
Patton wore her original shirt from the carousel’s grand opening, something she reserves for special occasions. She’s hoping to wear it again when a project to expand the building’s studios is completed.
“If you feel like you’re down and out, or you want a place to go when you want to lift up your spirits, just walk through these doors into the carousel and your heart will just open up,” Patton said.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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