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October 4, 2012

Farmers' Museum hosts Carousel Organ Rally

COOPERSTOWN — A two-foot tall wooden band director, decked out in a band uniform decorated in gold and a hat topped off in silver, greeted visitors to The Farmers’ Museum this past weekend with his cheery carnival music. His stage — the largest touring antique fairground organ in the Americas.

“It’s 16 feet long,” Jean Milburn said. “It has a 24-foot custom trailer with a generator mounted on it so we can make our own power any place we go. We can play in a cornfield if we need to.”

Jean Milburn was at The Farmers’ Museum for the Carousel Organ Rally.

“My husband, Roger Wiegand, has loved carousel organs every since he was a little tiny kid and always dreamed of owning one,” Milburn explained. “Due to the wonders of the Internet he saw a posting of a family in England that was selling this particular organ. It was made by a very famous maker, Gavioli, who operated his business out of Paris in the late 1800s. I just said, ‘You know if you’re ever going to do it, you better go.’ So he flew to England.”

The organ had been taken apart a generation before for a restoration that never happened, so after purchasing it, Wiegand and his wife had it restored to its former glory.

“It’s now dedicated to Queen Victoria and her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, which we think is the approximate year it came out of Gavioli’s workshop in Paris,” Milburn said.

Wiegand’s and Milburn’s organ wasn’t the only carousel organ to be found on the grounds of The Farmers’ Museum this past weekend.

“We have organs here from Canada, West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York,” the supervisor of The Empire State Carousel, Mary Margaret Kuhn said. “From the largest traveling organ in America to the largest trumpet organ in Canada. You’ll find a little grinder organ in the village that only weighs nine pounds, but boy, is it beautiful.”

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