One of the most beloved fixtures of downtown Saratoga Springs is unquestionably the Congress Park Carousel. Built in 1910 by well-known wood carver Marcus Charles Illions, this 28-horse carousel is marking its 109th year, having provided over a century of rides and memories to young and old patrons alike. Illions was known to be one of the greatest carousel carvers in the world, and is particularly renowned for the detailed and beautiful heads that he hand-carved himself. 

Closeup of a white carousel horse with pink saddle

Over the years, the carousel resided in several different locations, eventually landing in Kaydeross Park, an amusement area on Saratoga Lake. When Kaydeross Park was purchased by real estate developers in 1987, it was decided that the Carousel would be disassembled and auctioned off horse by horse. Concerned area citizens banded together to form the Save the Carousel Committee. The group recruited volunteers and, in a matter of weeks, raised enough money to support the City’s purchase of the carousel. After much hard work at restoration, and extensive deliberation as to the pros and cons of various locations between 1987-2002, the restored carousel was moved to its current location in Congress Park on June 29, 2002 and housed in a beautiful new pavilion. Each of the original 28 horses had been restored to its original grandeur. Today, the carousel continues to play traditional calliope and organ tunes and is one of only six remaining Illions machines in existence. It's also the ONLY known two-row Illions carousel still in operation today. A computer-controlled system has replaced the original belt-driven mechanisms.

Several carousel horses with red and yellow ceiling

Lead horse on carousel with blue jewels on his coat

Carousel visitors may notice this year that five of the horses look brand new. This is because they were recently refurbished as part of an ongoing effort to preserve the ride for future generations. This is the first major restoration that has been done since it was placed in the park back in 2002. According to Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, the carousel will be placed on a maintenance schedule with periodic restoration continuing at a rate of 5-6 horses per year, until the entire carousel is refurbished. 

Two carousel horses side by side in the sunlight

The initial bid was awarded to W.R.F. Designs, LLC, with over 30 years in carousel restoration, who performed the last full restoration for the Grand Opening in 2002. Artist and proprietor, Gabriel Finkenstein said, "We are among the premier and most experienced teams working in the field of Carousel Restoration today. We have unparalleled knowledge and passion for the care, upkeep and restoration of these wonderful antique works of art, and for the Historic Illions Carousel in Saratoga Springs in particular, as we handled its last full restoration." 

Each horse was carefully packaged for shipping to avoid any damage and transported to a fully equipped site where it was restored. The initial condition report from W.R.F. Designs, after inspecting the first five horses shipped to them in January 2019, found the horses to be "within expected levels of wear for their age and usage." Minor repairs were needed on various seams and separated or flexing leg joints; and were nothing that was unexpected. 

Carousel horse laying on its side on a workshop floor, in the early stages of having old finish stripped.

Photo provided by Saratoga Springs Dept. of Public Works

In order to avoid damage to the figure, a special form of stripping was used to remove the paint. The original coat, gold and silver leaf areas were documented and the final stripping was done with fine sanding, never chemicals. In the repair and finish process, nothing was done by machine. All paint was applied by hand, and natural fiber brushes and two coats of Japan oils were used. Each figure received two finish coats of pigment and was then prepared for gold and silver leafing, which was applied by hand and burnished. The horse then received four coats of marine spar varnish to block ultra violet light and provide a durable finish. They were then prepared for a safe and secure trip back home to the Carousel in Congress Park where they were re-installed with new and durable hardware, as needed.  

Carousel horse completely stripped of old paint standing upright

Photo provided by Saratoga Springs Dept. of Public Works

Carousel horse standing up in workshop with new coat of white finish

Photo provided by Saratoga Springs Dept. of Public Works

Two-photo collage showing before and after refurbishments pics of one of the carousel horses

Before and After Photos - Provided by Saratoga Springs Dept. of Public Works

We are lucky to have such a beautiful and historic Carousel right here in Congress Park, and are grateful for the infinite care that goes into beautifully refurbishing these horses that have brought so many memories to so many people!

Carousel surrounded by red and yellow tulips under a blue sky

The Carousel operates weekend-only hours between Labor Day and Halloween. Tokens to ride are only $1.00.

Special thanks to the Saratoga Springs Dept. of Public Works for providing all of the restoration information, and for sharing their photos of the process. For more information or additional details on hours, rain dates and rentals, please call 518-587-3550. You can also head to the City of Saratoga Springs’ website at