Christmas carousel comes to Baraboo

December 25, 2018

A merry-go-round that has made the rounds has made its way to Baraboo.

The Christmas-themed carousel is a family heirloom, and this month Meadow Ridge resident Betty Jones’ family surprised her by installing it outside her apartment window.

“It was a shock,” said Jones, who celebrated her 93rd birthday Friday. “I was flabbergasted.”

Featuring reindeer that circle a lit Santa and snowman, the carousel was acquired by Jones’ father decades ago. He repaired the motorized contraption after it was damaged in a windstorm.

“He was always doing something like that,” Jones said.

The carousel became something of an attraction at the family farm in Fairchild, near Eau Claire, and created a sensation when it moved to the home of Jones’ niece and nephew in suburban St. Paul. Families gather to have Christmas card pictures taken in front of it.

Over the years the carousel has temporarily moved to nursing homes, apartments and even a funeral home, with the niece and nephew — Bill and Lois Zemke of Minnesota — and other family members setting it up and relocating it at key locations.

A couple weeks ago, the Zemkes showed up at Meadow Ridge, an assisted living facility off Jefferson Street, to surprise their aunt. Her first response was shock. The second? “That’s going to scare the squirrels away from my bird feeder.”

After getting Meadow Ridge staff approval, Bill Zemke installed the carousel outside his aunt’s window. The conspirators considered erecting it out front, but opted for a spot where Jones and most other residents can see it.

“It brings back a lot of memories,” nurse and administrator Heather Godemann said, noting the public is welcome to come see the display.

Jones already was an adult when her dad bought the carousel, which is thought to have been built in the 1940s and relies on car parts. Its annual arrival — and the delight it brings people — quickly became a cherished family tradition.

“It was something different,” she said, noting that the merry-go-round has been a hit with Meadow Ridge neighbors. “They’ve all marveled at it. Everybody comes back to see it.”

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