Davenport’s riverfront will be gaudy with prancing ponies when a two-story carousel goes round-and-round this springtime. It will be a giant merry-go-round, the only double-decker in Iowa and the only one between Chicago and Kansas.

It is now being assembled at Modern Woodmen Park, slated to go into operation May 3. Called a Venetian because of its European gee-gaws and art, this jewel of a carousel that will have 82 sitting merry-go-round horses, 40 jumping horses that go up and down and six rocking horses.

It will be located west of the riverfront Ferris wheel.

It will be a companion to a kiddie train and two new rides on a 11,000-square-foot deck adjoining the Modern Woodmen Park grandstand. Its location is jokingly called “near the cornfield.”

The merry-go-round was purchased for approximately $500,000 by a new company called the Carousel Trust, a firm devised by Richard Bittner, Davenport attorney and philanthropist, and Dave Heller, owner of the Quad-Cities River Bandits ball club and four other baseball clubs. Carousel Trust is an independent board that owns the ride. Neither Bittner nor Heller is a member of the board.

The two-level carousel ride is unique in that, after expenses, profits of the Carousel Trust will be distributed annually to 20 Scott County charities for  children. Heller says rides on the carousel will be a modest $2.

While merry-go-rounds and their tinkly music are commonplace in carnivals, a double-decker carousel is rare in America. The style began in France and Germany a century ago, and the ornate design found its way to a few major American cities. The first Venetian-style carousel was located in San Francisco.

“It’s a beauty. I’ve seen it,” Heller says.

Bittner is enthused. He is administrator of the Bechtel Trust, which does many things behind the scenes for the community, and says, “I’ve always wanted Davenport to have a carousel. This one is spectacular.”

The Carousel Trust will independently own the merry-go-round. It will be operated and maintained by members of the River Bandits staff.

Contact Bill Wundram at 563-383-2249 or bwundram@qctimes.com.

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