An iconic downtown attraction in Salem has re-opened after a three month closure due to the coronavirus.
Salem’s Riverfront Carousel has been delighting children for a generation. It closed in mid-March as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Dozens of people took a ride in the first hour after it re-opened Thursday morning. Mari Guzman said she and her nephew were regulars at the attraction before it temporarily shut down.
"It was so sad," she said. "We would drive by and see the signs that said closed."
Thursday's opening was a surprise to Guzman. “We came to walk in the park, and we didn’t know it was going to be open," she said. "And we saw the sign, 'open,' and thought okay, great!”
The carousel is a non-profit and its executive director, Marie Bradford-Blevins, said being closed so long has been a struggle. The carousel relies on token sales as well as revenue from gift shop purchases and group rentals. Due to capacity concerns, group rentals are still not being offered, but the gift shop has re-opened.
When the doors opened up Thursday morning for the first time since March 12, Bradford-Blivens said there were roughly 30 people in line. "It was great," she said. "It kind of gave us goosebumps seeing people there."
Opening the carousel again was a bit of a gamble, said Bradford-Blivens. "You don't know if people are going to come, because they're still concerned about COVID-19. But everyone was excited to be here and we're excited to have them."
To help keep visitors safe, surfaces are cleaned between each ride. The middle row of horses is off-limits in order to maintain physical distancing between riders. There are also new procedures for how riders should enter and exit the building. Like all indoor public facilities in Marion County, face coverings are required for people age 12 and older, except for those with certain disabilities or health conditions.
The Willamette Valley's other downtown carousel, in Albany, opened its doors on June 11 after a coronavirus-related closure.