Bernie Mann talks about opening of Greensboro Rotary Carousel

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Who doesn’t love sitting on a wooden animal, going up and down while travelling around in a circle? In the background, music that sounds like a series of locomotive whistles!

Get ready, Greensboro! It’s coming your way. And when it cranks up later this year, it will be the largest in North Carolina and among the largest in the United States.

“We need good times,” Bernie Mann told me while sitting in his office recently. “And this is going to contribute to it.”

Mann is the president and publisher of Our State Magazine, a Greensboro-based publication he bought in 1996. Our State features nothing but good news celebrating everything North Carolina and told in stories accompanied by vivid photographs.

Mann sees a parallel between that mission and the driving force behind what will soon be the Greensboro Rotary Carousel.

“I’ve lived here 40 years,” Mann said. “This has been such a wonderful place for my wife and my family and in some way you always have to say, ‘How can I give back?’”

The carousel idea was the answer to that question a little more than 10 years ago when he was president of the Rotary Club of Greensboro.

“Just like everybody else, I love to ride on a carousel and it was fun. And it was just something I’ve enjoyed,” he said.

But not too many people were interested in donating money for such a thing during the middle of a recession.

Fast-forward to 2017, the 100th year of Greensboro Rotary’s existence. What better way to give back to the community and honor that centennial than with a carousel?

It was a persuasive proposition.

Through Mann’s and the Rotary Club’s efforts, individuals, corporations and organizations like the Greensboro Grasshoppers started stepping up to sponsor the 56 animal figures on which carousel riders will sit.

Each hand-carved figure will be an animal or insect (like the grasshopper) that represents a part of Greensboro’s history or culture. Other figures will be representations of animals that live in the Greensboro Science Center.

Not only is the carousel going up within yards of the science center’s facilities, the science center will manage the carousel, sell ride tickets and keep the proceeds.

“But we are also going to put together a fund so that if anything ever goes wrong with the carousel, the science center will be able to make all repairs,” Mann said.

This means Mann and the Rotary Club are raising more than $2.7 million for a project people of all generations will enjoy.

In addition to the animal figures, the carousel will feature two handicapped-accessible “chariots” and 32 rounding boards. These boards will be set above the riders at the top of the carousel and will feature artwork that celebrates Greensboro’s history.

The carousel, the building that encloses it and the park-like area surrounding it will be the centerpieces of the new Battleground Parks District which includes the Greensboro Science Center, the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park and the Greensboro Jaycee Park/Country Park.

Mann expects an opening in late spring, perhaps around Memorial Day.

“Oh, it’s totally Greensboro,” Mann said.

For more information on the Greensboro Rotary Carousel, click here.

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