HAMEL, Minn. (WCCO) — A farm in western Hennepin County is home to horses of all shapes and sizes.
Some of them are “live” and some of them are wooden — and there’s a story behind every one.
In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us to Hamel, where corrals and carousels make Skyrock Farm a site to see.
On a December morning, the beauty and serenity of Skyrock Farm is only interrupted by the wind or a curious glance, but what you see outside is a bit of a contrast to what’s happening inside.
“This is kind of what happens when your OCD cowboy retires,” said Stacy Nunn.
Years ago, Bill Nunn began collecting all sorts of different things. He started with a band organ.
“I had it in the living room and I turned it on and it was so loud that you had to listen to it standing out in the yard,” said Bill.
So he built a building to put it in, along with all his other collectibles.
“This is a Gavioli organ built in 1905 from France. It came in pieces. This was a 9 1/2-year project,” said Bill.
Carousel organs by Gavioli; dance organs by Marenghi. There’s an old music wagon from Holland that requires a bit of muscle to operate. There’s also an old carnival donkey and an mechanical old gorilla.
“And I shipped him here on a Greyhound bus from Atlanta because that was the cheapest way to get him here,” said Bill.
There’s even a clown that stays in shape by doing pull-ups — nonstop.
But the king is the carousel.
“A lot of the people, I think it brings back a lot of memories and they are sort of awestruck,” said Bill. “It’s great music. They call it the happiest music on Earth.”
It’s a reminder of simpler times, when this was the music you’d hear at carnivals and dance halls.
It’s caused Bill to become a keeper of carousel history.
“Even though they are made of wood, they have personalities and each one is different,” said Bill.
His love for horses now extends from the live ones to the wooden ones. The oldest horse is more than 130-years-old and came from Abilene, Kansas. The youngest was carved in 1920.
Bill has spent hours searching, purchasing and restoring each of the animals here. Some of them had more than 20 coats of paint and were missing a leg or two.
“When I bought the zebra he was bright orange and zebras shouldn’t be bright orange,” said Bill. “If they could talk they could tell us a lot of their history and I’d really like to hear their stories. They’ve carried a lot of kids around and around. Given a lot of kids good memories.”
The frame for the carousel came from an old theme park in Hinckley, Minnesota. Feet away are hundreds of mini-carousels that represent life-sized rides from around the world.
“There’s so much for the eye to take in that it’s hard to take it all in at first,” said Stacy.
Which is why Bill and his wife Stacy decided to open this up for private tours.
“You go home entertained by Bill and well-fed by me,” said Stacy.
But while adults might find what they see here nostalgic and historic, it’s the kids and the carousel that make it all worthwhile.
“When kids are riding this, that’s when they come alive. When the kids are having fun and riding, that’s great. It’s a great feeling,” said Bill.
The Nunns have had visitors come from as far away as Europe and Japan to see their carousel.
If you would like more information on the private tours they do at Skyrock Farm, visit their website.