The carousel at Helena's Great Northern Town Center will roll back into action on May 1, after having been closed for six months due to COVID-19 concerns.
“I’m real excited,” said Merritt Brown, who now serves as the carousel's general manager.
The carousel, which opened in 2002, is sandwiched between the Brewhouse Pub and Grille and ExplorationWorks in the Great Northern Town Center. It features 37 hand-carved animals -- including some seen in Montana such as a bobcat, gray wolf, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, antelope and otter.
Brown said the timing was good as ExplorationWorks recently reopened as well. She said she and staff have been working to prepare the 19-year-old carousel for opening day.
She said the ice cream stand and candy by the cup will also be open.
Jennifer DeHerrera, manager of the Great Northern Town Center, was happy with the news.
"We are excited for normalcy at Great Northern," she said. "We want it to be busy again."
DeHerrera said the Thursday "Out to Lunch" free concert events will run again from June 3-Aug. 19, in which people can come down to the amphitheater for lunch and free entertainment.
She said there will be some precautions, such as hand sanitizers and COVID masks for those who want them, designated smoking areas and an alternate bike route that steers pedalers away from crowds.
According to the carousel's website, Alan Nicholson, the developer of the Great Northern Town Center, had loved carousels since he was a boy. "When he envisioned the various eateries, boutiques and entertainment businesses in the town center, he also envisioned a carousel for the people of Helena and our tourists."
The animals were carved by a renowned Walt Disney World carver, the site’s website states. There are 14 Helena scenic-carved rounding boards and stained glass artwork.
Brown said the carousel is a popular area, and is adjacent to the outdoor amphitheater, where the Helena Out to Lunch was held during the summer on Thursday afternoons in pre-COVID times.
For more on the carousel, go to www.gncarousel.com/.
Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.