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Off the Beaten Trail

Kit Carson County Carousel & Museum
Burlington, Colorado

In the gaslight era of our history, Americans of all ages worked long hours with few organized leisure activities.  But for a special few, there were also merry-go-rounds!

These magical rides featured colorful, decorated beasts of all description, with exciting music to entertain and a cover to protect riders from the rain.

Of nearly 4000 wooden carousels carved between 1885 and the 1930s, fewer than 150 still exist.  One of the finest survivors, the Kit Carson County Carousel, still whirls merrily at the county fairgrounds in Burlington.

Kit Carson County Fairgrounds at Burlington
815 15th Street, Burlington, CO 80807
25 cents for a ride and Carousel tour

Museum admission: $1 per person; children under 10 free!
Open Daily Memorial Day to Labor Day, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

get a map  |  driving directions

For more information, please visit

The Philadelphia Toboggan Company manufactured 74 carousels between 1904 and 1933.  The Kit Carson County Carousel was the sixth one built and was originally purchased in 1905 by Elitch Gardens, a Denver amusement park.  PTC #6 is the only surviving menagerie carousel (has an assortment of animals rather than just horses) made by the company.  It is also the only antique carousel in America that still has its original paint on both the scenery panels and the animals.  The carousel is a stationary merry-go-round (the animals do not go up and down) but riders spin round and round and round to the tunes of an original Wurlitzer Monster Military Band Organ at more than ten miles an hour.

The Wurlitzer Monster Military Band Organ is truly the soul of this magnificent carousel.  The Wurlitzer Company built this Monster organ in 1909.  Elitch Gardens probably purchased the organ for a skating rink at the amusement park, but sold it along with the carousel to Kit Carson County in 1928.  The band organ contains 255 pipes, bass and snare drums, and a cymbal.

The paintings depict popular cosmopolitan scenes of the Victorian era with European pastoral scenes, world wonders like pyramids and sphinx, hunting, forest glen, country cottage, and various humorous subjects.  Some of the paintings required only careful cleaning.  Others demanded more extensive restoration because of major tears or water damage.

The animals were not over-painted while in use at Elitch Gardens which was the unfortunate fate of many era carousels.  In fact, wear on the saddles had been allowed to extend even into the surface of the wood, with few restoration attempts.  The Kit Carson County Carousel Association, recognizing the value of PTC No. 6's original paint, used careful fine art restoration methods to clean, repair, and preserve its original brilliance.

The Jewel of the Nation is how the carousel has been described since its designation as a National Historic Landmark.  The citizens of Kit Carson County were appalled in May, 1981 when a mid-western theft ring specializing in antiques entered the carousel building during a heavy rainstorm and removed three small horses and a donkey.  Considered too “hot” to sell, the animals were stored and eventually recovered from a Salina, Kansas warehouse.  Their return to the carousel turntable sparked a “welcome home” parade through Burlington in October of 1981.  Yellow ribbons, which were tied to the empty poles during the animals’ absence, were replaced by commemorative markers, and this Jewel has remained complete ever since.

The restoration of the carousel, the band organ, the paintings, and the twelve-sided building housing the carousel was begun in 1976 and completed twenty-five years later.

Overseen by the Kit Carson County Carousel Association, the restoration of PTC #6 is truly “preservation by perseverance.”  Today, the lion and his forty-five wooden friends strut counterclockwise to the waltzes and marches of 100 years ago, as proudly as when they left Philadelphia in 1905.

The Carousel Museum opened with the 2007 season. The museum interprets the Carousel, its restoration, the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and the Wurltizer Monster Military Band Organ.

See more about the Kit Carson County Carousel

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