By Jennifer Pund
Memorial Day is celebrated across the country to honor members of the Armed Services that gave their lived fighting in our country’s wars. It’s usually a formal, somber affair. The memorial event at Carousel Of Happiness is different; it’s “Ned-style.” The beloved attraction’s creator and staff welcome everyone to pay their respects in a casual, joyous—but thoughtful—atmosphere, May 29 at noon, without concern for political views. Join local Cub and Girl scout troop members in honoring fallen service members with a flag ceremony, personal remembrance and annual silent rider-less carousel ride.
“I’m always big on remembering people in a place of joy and in a joyous way instead of sad, sad, sad,” Carousel of Happiness creator and Vietnam veteran Scott Harrison said. “The sad part, one has to get through, and that comes naturally, but we like the philosophy of remembering people in a happy way.”
The Carousel’s Memorial Day ceremony gives attendees a moment to remember their loved one and share a bit about their feelings. “It’s not just veterans,” Harrison said. “Just come if you want to remember somebody in your life. We don’t make remembering a Veteran a requirement. It’s important for people to remember that—in a non-political atmosphere or environment—the sacrifice people have made in wars for the country.” Harrison said. “It’s just important because hopefully that helps us stop having these fucking wars. [The ceremony] has to be done. I want it to be done in a way that’s thoughtful, that people can just remember this person didn’t die by being hit by a car, they went to risk their lives for friends and family back home.”
Harms agrees the short ceremony is very impactful. “We have had a couple of people who have read anti-war poems, and it’s very ‘Ned-style.’ There have been people who are just really moved. When you think about the other side of the Carousel, it’s Memorial Day. It’s been great to see that day become a little bit more.”
The Carousel’s annual event came about because it was first opened and dedicated to Paul Christmas and Christian Langenfeld—combat soldiers Harrison served with in Vietnam—on the holiday in 2010. The two are “standing in” for all veterans that have given their lives or passed on. “These two guys were in my machine gun squad, and the day before the Tet Offensive, we were in a big action. They died, and I was wounded. They were really good friends of mine.” Harrison explained.
With the help of the Nederland-area scouts—Cub Scout Troop 170 and Girl Scout troops including Brownie Troop 70341, Juniors Troop 77810 and Cadets Troop 3031—a flag ceremony is held outside before the service moves inside. They also present the state flags representing the home states of Chrismas and Langenfeld.
“We added a flag ceremony on our fifth anniversary,” Carousel Executive Director Katrina Harms said. “It’s amazing. Since we started bringing in the girl scouts and boy scouts we’ve had a lot more people come, and now we have this connection with the community we really didn’t have before by involving the kids. It really makes people think.”
Harrison agrees the flag ceremony highlights the two fallen Marines who stand in for every fallen military member. “It just kind of shines a light, a little bit, and allows these guys to serve as examples,” he said. “They are good [examples] because one is a farm boy from Wisconsin, and the other is an inner city black guy; both teenagers. It’s not just for us standing here. I know people say that funerals are for the living, but I believe that it’s my job to keep these guys alive. And that’s part of it, coming from me. These guys are not dead as long as people are thinking about them.”
Dreaming of, and creating, the carousel helped Harrison cope with war and he hopes it will help others as well. “I was 19, a combat Marine in Vietnam and my sister sent me a small music box that I would hold up to my ear between firefights to calm me down,’ he said. “The music brought to mind a carousel spinning in a mountain meadow with families all around it sitting in the grass eating picnic lunches and enjoying the peace of the occasion. This was the opposite of the horror and chaos of war and it helped get me through the experience. Years later, the image stayed with me and became a dream of mine to build such a carousel.”
Harrison sees people emotionally effected when riding on his hand-carved animals. “I am not entirely certain why it is such a special experience for folks, perhaps it is that I carved the animals not as silly caricatures, but as respectful representations of the animals.” he said. “ It is a ride that everyone in the family from baby to grandparent can enjoy together.”
The Memorial Day ceremony, which includes scouts recognizing veterans with a rose, concludes with the carousel slowly, silently spinning, empty. “This is one of the most moving parts, but you wouldn’t have thought it. It’s kind of the riderless horse or riderless carriage. We run it very slow and totally quiet.” Harrison explained.
After the silent ride, veterans and scouts are invited for a full-speed ride. “When I invite them to have a ride, now it’s time for joy,” he said.
Carousel of Happiness
20 Lakeview Drive, Nederland, CO
email@example.com • 303-258-3457
Summer Hours (starts 5/22):
Mon-Fri: 10am-6pm • Sat-Sun: 10am-7pm
Originally published in the May 2017 issue of the MMAC Monthly