Riverfront Park's Looff Carrousel reopens with COVID-19 restrictions in place

Greg Mason, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
·3 min read

Mar. 1—Roxy Webster has made a tradition out of riding aboard the Looff Carrousel.

It started when the Spokane native was young, celebrating birthday parties with her family at Riverfront Park's approximately 112-year-old attraction. She said she's gone regularly since, though most notably was unable to last year with the attraction closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Looff Carrousel reopened Monday for the first time in nearly a year since the March 17 closure. And after seeing the news on Facebook, Webster and her mother were back once again — only this time, they were joined by Webster's 1-year-old son, HudsonLee.

"It means a lot that I can share those traditions with him and be able to pass it onto him to hopefully let him get super excited," Webster said. She added, "I'm going to do what I need to do to prevent the spread and be able to take care of myself and my child, but I'm also not going to just stop doing things to be able to share memories with my son and, now, the three generations of us doing things together."

Riverfront Park Director Jon Moog said Monday marked something of a "second opening" for the Looff Carrousel. The attraction previously reopened in May 2018 after shutting down for nearly a year and a half for $9.2 million in renovations.

Under Phase 2 of the state's coronavirus restrictions, the Looff Carrousel must abide by a 25% occupancy limit for indoor entertainment spaces like the circular carrousel rotunda, which Moog said is capable of holding 313 people. Yet even though the maximum occupancy under the restriction is 78, Moog said he expects social distancing requirements to potentially limit that number even further.

"We've been opening and closing attractions for several years," Moog said, referencing Riverfront Park's skate ribbon, SkyRide and U.S. Pavilion. "It's kind of becoming old hat in several ways, but the COVID pandemic is offering us challenges like never before."

With his mother and grandmother masked at his side, HudsonLee saddled up on one of the carrousel's white horses for his first ride ever.

His choice of steed was somewhat limited. Attendants are assigning riders a color prior to boarding to split them into socially distanced cohorts. Each animal's brass poles has a strip of red or blue tape.

Also new is the separation of the ticketing line from the carousel line as well as a new exit out the building's back patio.

In the carrousel line, the Looff has markers at 8-foot increments as opposed to the traditional 6 feet to, Moog said, allow for more space for family groups. Meanwhile, Moog said attendants are required to sanitize high-touch areas — including the ride's brass poles and saddles — at least once an hour, while attendees are required to use hand sanitizer prior to boarding.

"These are historic assets, so we want to make sure we're taking care of them," Moog said. "We're more concerned about continuous or habitual cleaning that will wear away the protective finish."

Other changes include the suspension of the carrousel's ring toss game. In past years, riders could reach for a brass ring that would entitle them to one free ride.

On a more functional level, Moog said the ring toss also provided riders with a reference point to help prevent nausea.

"We're trying to figure out a way to bring that back because we feel that it is an important part of the experience," Moog said, "but we haven't quite figured that out yet."

Anyone interested in riding the Looff Carrousel is encouraged to order their tickets online ahead of time.

For ticketing, a complete list of ride requirements and more information, visit my.spokanecity.org/riverfrontspokane.