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Record $1.1 Million Paid for Carousel

December 11, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ A group of Minnesotans offered $1.1 million Saturday for their State Fair carousel, just in time to save the 74-year-old, hand-carved wooden horses from being separated on the auction block, officials said.

The offer by Our Fair Carousel Inc. of St. Paul was a record sale price for a carousel, said Guernsey’s auction house spokeswoman Barbara Mintz.

The carousel’s owners, the Blinstrup family of Eden Prairie, Minn., set a $1.089 million floor price, meaning that if bids totaled less than that, the carousel would not have been sold.

Arlan Ettinger, the president of the auction house, said the deal that apparently will keep the carousel at the Minnesota State Fair was made just minutes before it was to go on the auction block.

If the group’s bid had been turned down, and if no one else had bought the carousel whole, it would have been sold piece by piece, probably fetching a higher price, Ettinger said.

″The family truly wanted it to stay there,″ Ettinger said. ″They urged us to consider selling it before the auction, which is what we did.″

″Obviously, we’re very excited; we’re very happy,″ said Brian Walton, a spokesman for Our Fair Carousel. ″We have saved the carousel from the auction block, but we have a year to save the carousel itself.″

The non-profit group, formed just last month, has a year to raise money to pay back the loan it took out to buy the carousel.

The intricately carved carousel, created in 1914 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co., contains 68 wooden beasts. It was ridden just 12 days a year at the fair for 74 years, said Mintz.

The carousel’s owners, Mary Blinstrup and her two children, recently decided to sell the ride because they lost money on it in recent years and could not make a long-term commitment to keep it at the State Fair.

The previous record sale price was $678,000 paid for the Fall River, Mass., carousel at a Guernsey’s auction, she said.

In addition to the pre-auction deal involving the Minnesota carousel, about 200 horses and other carousel carvings were put on the block and fetched a total of about $5 million Saturday, Ettinger said.

″There’s an increasing awareness of this as a real American art form,″ he said.

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