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Nunley's Carousel turns 100

Halle Zweibel of Commack rides the Nunley's Carousel

Halle Zweibel of Commack rides the Nunley's Carousel in Garden City which will soon be celebrating it's 100th anniversary. (May 27, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

For some, it was the essence of childhood on Long Island: Bobbing up and down on carved wooden horses at Nunley's Carousel. Old-time tunes -- "Pop Goes the Weasel," anyone? -- played from an organ as the ride went round and round, turning nearby crowds into a whir of colors.

Don't cling only to the memories. Make new ones this weekend at Nunley's 1912 Festival on Museum Row in Garden City to celebrate the carousel's 100th anniversary with period games, crafts and amusement park food.

"People grew up on that carousel," says Gary Monti, director of the Cradle of Aviation Museum, which is organizing the event. "We get people coming in all the time who say, 'Wow, I used to ride this as a kid. This is so great.'"

WHAT TO EXPECT

You don't have to be a kid to enjoy the two-day festival. Still, the event is perfect for families, Monti says.

Keeping true to the turn-of-the-20th-century theme, games include croquet, sack races, hoop and stick races, bean bag tosses and others. Winners receive novelty prizes.

"If you went to Coney Island in 1912, and you went to the arcade area, you'd see something like this," says Monti. "We're going to have classic games where you throw a ball at metal milk bottles and try to knock them down."

Like crafts? There will be areas to make clothespin dolls and early animation flip books. Vendors will sell hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn and pretzels ($2-$5) outside.

A barbershop quartet adds to the Coney Island-like atmosphere, as well as photo ops with Teddy Roosevelt impersonator Jim Foote of Sea Cliff, and a replica of the cockpit inside aviator Glenn Curtiss' 1909 plane, the Golden Flyer.

For inquisitive minds, an exhibit covers carousel artisans, the history of Nunley's, carving tools and carousel mechanics.

CAROUSEL NOSTALGIA

The carousel's first home was at Golden City Park in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was relocated in 1940 to Nunley's Amusement Park in Baldwin, where it remained until 1995. The park's crown jewel — the carousel — was beloved by generations. One couple was even married on the carousel in the '90s, says Monti.

For Larry Rooney, 70, of Bellmore, "it was a place to go and have a good time." He went on a double date in 1959. On the carousel, Larry "picked off as many rings as there were turns," trying to impress his date.

"I guess I was" impressed, Donna Rooney, 67, says with a laugh. (They've now been married for 48 years.)

If riders were lucky enough to grab a brass ring among the dozens of silver ones, they earned a free ride, says Marisa Berman, 29, of Oceanside. "It was a rite of passage .?.?. making a slow, simple ride into a quest," she says.

There are still 41 horses and one lion on the carousel, which was restored in 2007. Barbara Southard, 73, of Miller Place always opted for one particular white horse when she visited in the 1940s. The ride felt "like you were flying," she says, adding, "I bet that children now, even with all of the technology that is available to them, will get a certain sense of magic on the carousel."

Nunley's Carousel 1912 Festival

WHEN | WHERE Noon-6 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday, Museum Row near Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City

INFO 516-572-4012, cradleofaviation.org

ADMISSION $5 (includes carousel ride)

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