Local Documentary Tracks Restoration, Legacy of Chippewa Carousel

Story by Taylor Onski, Image courtesy of Shebafilms

Chippewa Park, it’s safe to say, is a mainstay of growing up in Thunder Bay. One of its most popular features is the over-century-old carousel. Even just riding a horse on the carousel, going in a circle to an old Victorian circus tune, exudes magic—which is exactly what local filmmaker Adrien Harpelle captures in his documentary, The Carousel of Time.

Over a five-year span, Harpelle chronicles the restoration of the carousel, and reflects on its legacy. After getting a “how-to” manual from Lisa Parr, an international expert on the restoration of antique carousels, the restoration project, led by Iain Angus, began, with painters, carvers, designers, and woodworkers volunteering their time to refurbish this important piece of Thunder Bay history.

“The story wasn’t immediately obvious until, weirdly, we went out there and kept meeting new people working on this, and we found the community and artistic aspects of the film,” says Harpelle. “Everybody in that movie was really cool to hang out with. We just got to see them do their work and get inspired.”

Just some of these cool people Harpelle mentions are Vic Germaniuk, a carver who made each horse look as it did in 1915, and painters Michelle Reinelt and Linda Siczkar, who brought each individual horse and their personality to life with attention to detail and artistic skill. Younger generations also helped out, such as students at local high schools like Westgate and Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institutes, who made metal sheets and painted the tent’s scenic panels. “It’s giving ownership to a lot of people to say, ‘hey, I worked on that,’” says Harpelle. “It’s creating an enormous amount of pride that is well deserved because people came together to create something really beautiful and our film is really a celebration of that.”

After its premiere at Vox Popular Media Arts Festival, the film received positive reviews. It will soon be released on researchtv.ca, so anyone who likes carousels, appreciates learning about art and local history, and wants a feel-good movie about a community coming together to keep a wonderful local legacy alive can enjoy the film. “I hope people have an appreciation for older things, especially buildings, art, and architecture, because it’s really sad to see historic places and things be destroyed just out of negligence,” says Harpelle. “I’’s important to […] preserve the work of people and ideas from the past. In a greater way, it’s a celebration of people.” 

For more information about the film and Harpelle’s productions, visit shebafilms.com and lipmediaproductions.com