carousel alight, creating an air of magic as it spins. Many Montana animals grace the carousel alongside some more magical additions, such as the hippocampus, a mythical creature that carries the head of a horse and the body of a fish, complete with a colorful fishtail. Otters swim playfully through the air and look up at riders. Dinosaurs, the original Montana animals, can be found frolicking among the horses. “The wolf is superbly done. It’s beautifully painted and carved,” Nicholson remarks. The bighorn sheep is a crowd favorite. With a strong stance, he can be assumed to be a leader of the crew. As a Montana State graduate, Nicholson had to include a bobcat. “You’ll notice the bobcat is behind the grizzly, chasing him,” Alan laughs warmly. “The grizzly is obviously afraid of the bobcat!” The entire Nicholson family—Alan, Nancy, and their five children—all took part in the creative process of dreaming and creating the ride. “It was a family affair,” he states proudly. “My youngest daughter was just eight years old when we opened the carousel. She and her friends were the first riders. I hope it’s running 50 years from now. We didn’t cut any corners when building it, so it should be running when your grandchildren are having kids. It’s been a labor of love for many years now. It was very much an experience of a lifetime, getting it all put together.” In January 2019, the ride was temporarily closed for renovations. As part of the renovation process, the animals were repainted. The floors were redone so they would pop and the room was painted to compliment the refreshed animals. A new token machine and candy corner were added as well as fresh signage and artwork throughout. Together, ExplorationWorks and the Great Northern Carousel bring fun, excitement and education to the Helena scene. They are joined in their mission to provide enriching experiences and have begun to collaborate more and more by offering things like summer camps and workshops. Family favorites, like the ice cream stand, will always be a vibrant part of the ride experience. “At our carousel, if you get an ice cream cone before 6:00, it doesn’t have any calories in it,” Alan proclaims. n
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