St. Augustine’s carousel is expected to offer its last ride this weekend.
Jim Soules, owner of St. Augustine’s carousel, died recently. On Tuesday afternoon, his wife, Peggy Soules, said Sunday will be the last day the carousel will operate. The family plans to have it dismantled on Monday, she said.
Nothing will be sold, and Peggy Soules said she wasn’t sure what she would do with it. On Tuesday afternoon, it was still spinning, offering rides for $1.
The carousel, which was built in 1927, has been in the Soules family since the 1980s. Gerard, Jim’s brother, bought the carousel.
It was in Fort Wayne, Indiana, before opening in St. Augustine Beach in 1993. It moved to its current location in 1994. Soules had a lease with the city to run the carousel at the city park.
Both Jim and Gerard Soules had a soft spot for disabled children, Peggy Soules said.
“He really liked handicapped children, so the handicapped children would ride for free,” she said.
The carousel has had adventures over the years.
In 2003, Frank Feldmann rode the carousel nonstop for 52 hours and 15 minutes to raise publicity for a book and money for the American Red Cross.
Peggy Soules thanked everyone who’s visited the carousel over the years.
“I just want them to know that we really appreciated everybody’s patronage, that we made a lot of good friends there,” she said. “And it’s ... just time now to retire the carousel. I just can’t do it. But I can’t thank them enough.”
On Monday, city commissioners asked city staff to see what options might be available to preserve the carousel.
Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline described the carousel as a beloved landmark in the community.
“I think it’s important to do what we can to find a way to preserve it, and perhaps there’s some options if we act quickly,” she said.
City Manager John Regan said he contacted the Soules family on Tuesday morning, which was before Peggy Soules spoke to The Record, and thanked them for operating the carousel. He also let them know the city is interested in keeping the carousel at Davenport Park.
“There has been a tremendous amount of community outreach to the city with regard to the ... importance of the carousel to our community fabric. It’s something that brings out quite a bit of fond memories and emotions for families and our residents and our businesses,” Regan said.
Later Tuesday, the city issued a press release in which Regan added: “The family needs to focus on their immediate priorities and will get back to the city at an appropriate time.”