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1930s carousel sings back to life in Harrison Hot Springs

Alberta artist restored 11 antique carousel ponies to former glory

Eleven horses stood in Annette Resler’s home as she lovingly treated each one, hour by hour, day by day.

She’s no veterinarian. Resler is an Alberta-based artist who recently volunteered her time to restore 11 horses from an antique carousel, which just opened for operations at The Springs RV Resort in Harrison Hot Springs.

Resler and her husband have an RV lot at The Springs. Prior to her work on the horses, Resler had no restoration experience; her background was in graphic design.

“I am an artist who embraces every opportunity to create any thing in any medium,” she told The Observer. “I don’t have any specific expertise by any means; I love to paint, I love to draw and I really enjoy any opportunity.”

Resler said restoring the horses to their former glory was a project near and dear to her heart.

“The kids are going to be using it, my own grandkids are going to be riding the horses,” she said. “It’s just such a fun community piece.”

According to Resler’s research, the carousel was built sometime in the 1930s. It once had a place at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, not as a permanent fixture but as an attraction at larger events, typically fundraisers for various charitable organizations. The 11 identical horses are made of aluminum and were manufactured in England.

The carousel also made appearances at the Chilliwack Fair and the Agassiz Fall Fair and Corn Festival before it was privately purchased and placed at The Springs RV Resort. The carousel has been at The Springs for at least the past four years.

The horses were sandblasted and powder-coated to clean up the chipping, peeling paint job.

“It wasn’t just a simple sanding and touching up; they really needed to be completely redone,” Resler recalled. “Basically,I ended up with these clean, white little stallions, 11 of them, all identical, and I just started painting them.”

It took Resler about two months to finish painting the horses, effectively making it a full-time job from early February to late March. She started with a thin layer of paint which she put on literally by hand, feeling for any potential spurs or rough spots and to get an idea of the horses’ contours.

“They just took on personalities as I worked through them,” she said. Each horse is painted differently – one was even painted to look like a zebra. “I went into it with quite a different idea of how they’d end up, but I always wanted them to have a certain amount of realism. It was really important for me to paint their noses so that they looked like fuzzy noses. It’s important to have them representational but unique for each horse.”

The horses brought Resler so much joy, she dubbed them “The Smile Makers.”

“Everybody who came into contact with them, like the big guys over at Fraser Valley Sandblasting and at Proflow Powder Coaters, everybody, softened and smiled every time they would see these itty-bitty little horses,” she added. She joked that she’d sometimes imagine that when she left them that the horses would come to life and cavort around the house, a la “Night at the Museum.”

Families gathered at The Springs for an official ribbon-cutting on Saturday, May 20. Eight of the 11 ponies hung on the carousel with plans to switch them out periodically. After a lunch and arts and crafts, 24 kids lined up to ride the carousel.

The carousel is set to run mainly on weekends and during holidays for those staying at the resort.

“It was really fun to see the excitement on the kids’ faces,” Resler said. “They would high-five us as they were going around and around. It really brought it all together. This is what it was all about.”


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Adam Louis

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