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MMD > Archives > December 2010 > 2010.12.24 > 02Prev  Next

Restore North America's Carousel Organs
By T. J. Fisher

A number of good points have been made over the last few days.
The consensus seems to be that the best way to get band organs at
corporate amusement parks fixed is through donations, but I see
a few problems with this strategy.

I think Alan Erb hit the nail on the head when he wrote that "it is
hard to talk to the right person.  At Six Flags and other parks it
seems there is no right person."  I can't seem to find the right person
to answer the simplest of questions about these organs, so I don't know
how a fundraising and restoration effort could be coordinated

I'm not sure where the money would come from.  The idea of enthusiasts
banding together to raise money reminded me of AMICA's Adopt-A-Piano
program.  Honestly, I would have far fewer reservations about
contributing money to a non-profit group like the Montana Heritage
Commission, the first beneficiaries of Adopt-A-Piano, or even a smaller
business like Knoebels than to a corporation like Six Flags.

Parking, admission, food, souvenirs, and everything else are obscenely
expensive at corporate amusement parks.  Everywhere one turns is
another exhortation to upgrade to a season's pass, purchase a "reduced
waiting" pass, or spend money on something else.

I realize that times are tough for the amusement park industry, but
it certainly seems that these corporations ought to be printing money,
not running out of it.  I don't think there's any question that these
corporations could afford to repair their band organs.  They have
chosen not to for years and years, which I believe reflects the
corporate culture of these parks.

Suppose that money was raised and used to restore an organ at one of
these parks.  It might play correctly for a few weeks, but who would
clean the tracker bars?  Who would change the rolls?  Who would protect
the organ from vandalism?  If there was a problem, would the park
repair the organ or let it remain broken?

The fact that people outside the corporation were willing to contribute
money would not change the underlying problem, the corporate culture.
The organ would still belong to the park, for I don't think any of them
wold accept partial ownership.  I think that, if there was a problem,
the park would let the organ go to seed again.

Should we enthusiasts then get together and raise more funds?  If they
didn't, the organ would stay broken.  If they did, the corporation
would lay back expect us to do so again the next time something went
wrong.  It would be a vicious cycle, and either way, the corporations'
attitudes toward the organs would be unchanged.

Ultimately, no organ can remain in good shape without someone to take
care of it.  The change has to come from within these corporations.
There will probably not ever come a time when some executive has an
epiphany in the middle of a board meeting about historical or artistic

This is why I maintain that we ought to continue to make our voices
heard whenever we visit these parks, in the hopes that perhaps the bean
counters might find enough complaining customers to convince themselves
to have the organs repaired.  It's unlikely and it doesn't recognize
the full value of an organ, but I think it's the best hope these organs

I wish that no corporate amusement park owned a band organ.  Of course,
you know what they say about wishes and horses.  Maybe there is
something that enthusiasts could do for these organs, but I don't
believe we've found the right thing yet.

In the meantime, I think we ought to continue to enjoy the organs that
do work properly at family-owned amusement parks, community parks,
museums, and so forth.  I am grateful for the opportunity to take care
of the organ at Glen Echo, and I am thankful for the many people who
take care of so many other organs.

Dave Haibach wrote, "Do not start with the mega parks, they may be too
far gone."  I agree.  I would contribute in a heartbeat if a hat needed
to be passed around for the organ at a smaller amusement park.  I spend
much more time at parks like those than at corporate parks, and it's
not just for the organs.

I feel much better supporting those smaller businesses.  The rumors
are that Six Flags may divest itself of some of its properties soon.
I sure hope that enough people continue to support smaller amusement
parks so that, like the wonderful instruments they value and maintain,
those parks will continue to be around for many more years.

TJ Fisher
Washington, D.C., USA

(Message sent Sat 25 Dec 2010, 04:46:51 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  America's, Carousel, North, Organs, Restore

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