Friends of Balboa Park buys Balboa Park Carousel, hopes to raise funds to keep it operating

Event held Tuesday for National Carousel Day
Posted at 8:48 AM, Jul 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-25 14:55:08-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A local nonprofit group has purchased the historic Balboa Park Carousel and will continue to operate it at the park.

The Friends of Balboa Park organization officially acquired the Carousel, which has been at Balboa Park since 1922, last month. It had been owned and operated by Bill Steen and his family since 1977.

John Bolthouse, executive director of Friends of Balboa Park, said, "The Carousel was one of very few privately owned assets in Balboa Park, and our taking over its ownership aligns perfectly with Friends' mission to preserve and maintain the Park for future generations to come. Since 1999, Friends has partnered with the City Parks & Recreation Department to help fund projects throughout the Park, and the Carousel is our largest undertaking yet. We need the public's support in funding the endeavor, and are looking forward to continuing to the Carousel being in the spotlight, just as was intended more than a century ago."

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"We have decided to sell to the Carousel to a San Diego organization who would appreciate and maintain it for future generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Friends to help preserve this shining gem for the 'Jewel of San Diego' for people from around the world to enjoy," said Steen.

On Tuesday, to coincide with National Carousel Day, Friends of Balboa Park is launching a campaign to raise funds to maintain the Carousel moving forward. For more information or to donate, visit

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In celebration of National Carousel Day, a public event will be held at the site of the Carousel on Park Boulevard and Zoo Way, off the San Diego Zoo entrance parking lot.

The public event that starts at 10 a.m. will include children's music and carnival activities, face painting, and more until 2 p.m. Free Carousel rides will be available from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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Some facts and information on the Balboa Park Carousel (provided by Friends of Balboa Park):

-- The Carousel is open weekends, holidays, summer months and when school is out, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. A 5-minute ride costs $3.

-- The Carousel still runs on the original General Electric motor built in 1910, and requires an elevator/roller coaster certification to operate.

-- The Balboa Park Carousel is a Menagerie model, which means it has more than just horses for the figures. This carousel has a two-level platform, which plays host to 12 Jumping Horses, 15 Standing Horses, 25 Menagerie Animals (1 Camel, 2 Cats, 1 Deer, 2 Dogs, 1 Dragon, 2 Frogs, 2 Giraffes, 1 Goat, 1 Lion, 2 Mules, 2 Ostriches, 2 Pigs, 2 Roosters, 1 Stork, 1 Tiger, 2 Zebras), and 3 chariots.

-- All of the menagerie animals are original hand-carved English Lindenwood made with fine European craftsmanship. Also original are the hand-painted murals surrounding the upper portion of the carousel and the military band music.

-- It is one of a few in the world still offering the brass ring game for everyone taking the 5-minute ride.

-- Prior to its purchase by Friends of Balboa Park, the Carousel has always been family owned and operated -- and only a few owned the Carousel during its 104 years in San Diego.