WILMORE, Kan. (KSNW) – It took Ernie Griffin 70 years, but he finally got his carousel.
“Everybody needs a carousel, don’t they?” he laughed.
It’s a big toy he’s wanted since he was a kid.
“It makes everyone 9 years old,” said Ernie.
“I thought he was a little crazy, as did the town of Wilmore,” said his wife, Christy Griffin.
But just having the carousel isn’t enough. Ernie wants to share it.
Day or night, friend or stranger, he’ll fire up the musical merry-go-round on request.
Almost every day, Ernie says someone stops by for a ride.
If he’s not outside, people get his attention by honking a horn hanging on a sign near the carousel, or they beep their own car horns.
The Griffin’s dog also barks at every honk to tell the couple they have company.
“You’ve never been asleep or in the bathroom, and you hear the honk?” asked KSN’s Stephanie Bergmann.
“No, never been in the bathroom,” said Ernie, chuckling. “If you’re in the middle of dinner, then you’re not always excited. The biggest problem is some people want to give you money, and we insist on not taking it. It can get pretty awkward at times.”
Ernie started this in 2013, after buying a carousel made in Italy and decorated with pictures of gondolas. But the ride was actually used in malls in Minnesota and Texas.
“It was in a storage facility and was covered in about a foot of dirt,” said Ernie. “It was all in pieces.”
Townspeople helped him put it together, from the concrete pad under the carousel to the giant gazebo around it.
They also assembled the many horses, seats, and spinning teacups.
Even the mirrored shapes at the top of the carousel are the work of a Wilmore resident who has a metal shop in Wichita.
“I was able to get him the polished stainless and then we laser cut ’em out,” said Jorge Martinez, owner of JR Custom Metal Products.
When it came time for the carousel’s grand opening, Ernie had electrical problems.
Barbara Fry Delaney, 84, smiles as she remembers that day.
“The first time we rode on it, Ernie was our power source, and he pushed it!”
Yes, Ernie provided the horsepower needed to get the carousel moving.
The first official rider was a 102-year-old woman.
“She gets up on the carousel, and I say, ‘Well, here’s the sleigh car. Why don’t you sit in there?'” recalled Ernie. “And she says, ‘By God, if I’m going to get on a carousel, I’m getting on a horse!'”
Since then, the Griffins have hosted people from retirement homes, schools, and even tour buses out of Wichita.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing, and it brings lots of people to Wilmore because we’re not on Highway 183 or 160 so you’re either lost or want to be here when you get here,” said Delaney, a native of the small town.
If you want to ride the carousel, the Griffins recommend you call first (620) 738-4420 to make sure they’re home.
Their home is also unique. To see the KSN story about that, click here.
KSN Digital Extra
A mural painted on the town grain elevator by artist Stan Herd depicts how Wilmore got its name.
A coin toss between two local ranchers, Thomas Jackson Wilmore and C.C. Pepperd, decided whose name would be given to the town.
The current population is about 50.
Also of note, Wilmore’s Federated Methodist Church was built in November 1927 and has a beautiful and unusual feature– curved pews that form a semi-circle around the altar.
Even though the congregation is small, less than 20, the church is still active.