A Minnesota icon has reached its 100th birthday -- 25 years after it nearly met its demise.
The carousel that began life in 1914 at the Minnesota State Fair was already being dismantled for auction when a husband and wife embarked on a longshot mission to save it.
"I said the silliest thing I've ever said in my life, 'Let's see what we can do,'" laughs Peter Boehm.
The year was 1988 and Boehm and his wife Nancy Peterson had just read an article about the privately owned carousel being broken up and sold.
Hours later Boehm was on the telephone with the owner. "I got off the phone with him and I said to Nancy, 'It's easy, all we need to do is raise $1 million before the auction in four weeks.'"
While $1 million may seem like a steep price tag, the carousel's carved wooden horses are prized by collectors. Several on the carousel could have fetched $40,000 apiece. Watch the video above to see which horse is valued at $100,000!
Boehm and Peterson had to work quickly. They formed a nonprofit community group and convinced the city of St. Paul to back a million-dollar loan. Then the couple traveled to New York and purchased the carousel intact for just over $1.1 million.
Volunteers now operate the carousel at St. Paul's Como Park Tuesday through Sunday during the summer months and weekends in the fall.
"We said right from the very first day, we're doing this for our future grandchildren," said Boehm. Indeed the couple's two grandchildren are now among the riders.
Both Peterson and Boehm are frequent riders on the Carousel, but they have another favorite seat.
"I can sit on that bench out there all day long," says Boehm, pointing to a park bench a few feet from the carousel. "Just watching the smiles of the people as they come off the ride - that's what we did it for."
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