Flying Horses closed for the summer

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The Flying Horses won't be spinning this summer. - Gabrielle Mannino

The Flying Horses, the Island’s iconic carousel in the heart of Oak Bluffs, will remain closed for the summer, Vineyard Trust, which owns and operates the landmark, announced in a press release Friday.

“It is with great sadness that we have made the determination that it is not feasible for us to reopen the Flying Horses Carousel this year,” Funi Burdick, president and CEO of Vineyard Trust, said in the release. “In order to keep both our staff and the public safe, we had devised COVID-19 sanitation protocols for the horses. However, after doing a paint analysis, we determined that the recommended dosage and frequency of alcohol-based cleaning fluid would have eroded the historic paint on the horses. As a preservation organization, our core mission is to protect and maintain the cultural artifacts in our care. While we recognize the important role the Flying Horses Carousel plays in making and helping to relive treasured Island memories, we must take the conservative path this year in order to protect the Carousel for future visitors.”

The Flying Horses Carousel, which is on the National Historic Landmark registry, is the nation’s oldest platform carousel. Since 1884, the Flying Horses Carousel has delighted visitors in the town of Oak Bluffs. Constructed by Charles Dare of New York Carousel Manufacturing in 1876, it is one of only two Dare carousels that still exist. Originally operated as an attraction on Coney Island, it was moved to Oak Bluffs in 1884, and includes stationary carved wooden horses with manes and tails of real horsehair and inset glass eyes. Each horse is brightly painted and fixed to the rotating platform by a metal post.The carousel was acquired by Vineyard Trust in 1986 to prevent it from being dismantled and sold piecemeal to collectors of antique carved horses.

The trust undertook an extensive restoration of the Flying Horses, returning the carousel to its original appearance, complete with the historic panel paintings that were done by a Dare factory artist. Other Trust-owned landmarks have reopened to the public, including the Carnegie, which houses the permanent exhibit “Living Landmarks,” and serves as the jumping-off point for its three historic walking tours around Edgartown, including a new Literary Edgartown walking tour.

The trust will reopen Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs July 12 to 19 as the temporary home of artist-in-residence civil rights sculptor Kevin Sampson, as part of a special partnership event with Mariposa Museum. Sampson will be producing, with community input, a found art assemblage sculpture to be part of the Mariposa Museum’s “Freedom Song” summer exhibit. For more information about Vineyard Trust, visit vineyardtrust.org.