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Fantasy Fair Amusement Park has one of only two Looff Carousels still in operation in Ontario

December 2021

Carousels have been a popular amusement ride since the early 1800s, when John Joseph Merlin created a carousel in his Mechanical Museum in London in 1803. Originally serving as entertainment for London gentry and nobility, by the mid-1800s, they were a popular feature at fairs and carnivals.

The inspiration for Merlin’s creation was the early jousting traditions in Europe and the Middle East, where Knights would demonstrate their skill and horsemanship by galloping in a circle while tossing balls to one another. The modern carousel, or merry-go-round, traditionally features rows of wooden horses, lions, pigs or zebras, mounted on poles, with gears moving them up and down to simulate galloping. Sometimes fixed bench seating is also included for those with motion issues. Pre-recorded circus music plays as the ride operates.

The carousel at Fantasy Fair Amusement Park, the largest indoor amusement park in Ontario, located in the Woodbine Mall in Etobicoke, Ontario, features a carousel originally created by Charles I. D. Looff, a German master carver and builder of hand-carved carousels and amusement rides. Part original and part recreation, the carousel was erected at the Woodbine Centre in 1985, with the original wood animals replaced with fiberglass replicas, situated on the original 1911 54-foot decking. With forty-four jumping horses, eight stationary horses and four chariots, it’s one of the approximately forty carousels Loof built in his life, and one of only thirteen that are still in operation today.

Another Looff carousel still in operation in Ontario can be found at Lakeside Park in Port Dalhousie, where it’s been since 1921. It still costs only five cents to ride.

Unfortunately, the future of the Loof Carousel, along with the other twelve full-size rides and attractions at Fantasy Fair are in doubt, as the 60,000 square foot amusement park was put up for sale in 2021. Decreasing foot traffic in the mall, and a corresponding increase in vacant store fronts, has also seen a decline in attendance for Fantasy Fair. An ambitious revitalization plan to expand the Woodbine Mall to include a convention centre, theatre, waterpark, and new condos, has yet to materialize.

If a new buyer for Fantasy Fair can’t be found, the rides may have to be sold separately.

Also read:

Sources: Fantasy Fair, Woodbine Mall’s Fantasy Fair has randomly been put up for sale (blogto.com), Woodbine Centre mall struggling in spite of recent makeovers – GH360, Charles I. D. Looff – Wikipedia, Carousel – Wikipedia, HERSCHELL CARROUSEL FACTORY MUSEUM – Home (carrouselmuseum.org).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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