A Century Old Charm: Forest Park Carousel and Bandshell mark 100 years in Woodhaven

forest park
Photo by Anthony Medina

The centennial celebration for the Forest Park Carousel and George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell attracted hundreds of visitors on Saturday, June 15. Nestled within over 500 acres of New York City parkland, the event featured a day of free rides, music and educational activities.

The two Woodhaven attractions, located within Forest Park, near the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive, are considered neighborhood gems by many who have participated in its festivities in the past and present.

Edward Wendell, President of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, advocated for bringing the all-day event to the neighborhood with the help of the New York City Parks Department, elected officials and community leaders.

Wendell’s initiative also led to another historic milestone for the park — the street co-naming of Forest Park Carousel Way.

“My dad brought me on the carousel when I was little,” Wendell told QNS. “A lot of people here have grown up and brought their children to the carousel. Their children have grown up, and now they’re bringing their grandchildren to the carousel.”

Edward (Ed) Wendell holds the newly Forest Park Carousel Way sign at The Forest Park Carousel and George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell Centennial on Saturday, June 15. Photo by Anthony Medina

The centennial celebration of the carousel and bandshell serves a much greater purpose than simply acknowledging its physical presence in the neighborhood, Wendell explained. It is the shared experience of riding on the carousel and watching a performance at the bandshell that connects the people from 1924 to 2024.

“It defines your community, it defines continuity, it defines a shared heritage,” Wendell added.

Ed Wendell unveils the new Forest Park Carousel Way Street Sign on the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive on Saturday, June 15. Photo by Anthony Medina

Information provided by the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society and NYC Parks dates the Forest Park Carousel back to its first full season opening in 1924.

The original carousel, complete with hand-carved animals by master carver Daniel Muller, was destroyed by a fire in December 1966. Carver was responsible for creating 12 carousels in his lifetime, with one of two that remain at Forest Park.

The new carousel, constructed by William H. Dentzel, Muller’s teacher, came to the park in 1972. Some of Muller’s original pieces are still salvageable in the reconstruction.

In recent years, the carousel has undergone even more renovations to maintain its structural integrity. It closed in 2010, and there were fears it would close permanently until Ridge Entertainment took over the space and renamed it Forest Park Amusement Village.

Two years later, in 2012, the carousel underwent major construction to restore its functionality. More construction projects in 2015 further supported the structure of the carousel, which many are able to appreciate today.

A NYC Parks activity table giving participants their own flowers to grow on Saturday, June 15.Photo by Anthony Medina
A NYC Parks activity table giving participants their own flowers to grow on Saturday, June 15. Photo by Anthony Medina

Leah Peterkin, director of operations at Ride Entertainment, recognized the Woodhaven community’s commitment to the carousel and the joy it continues to bring visitors.

“It was one of the most incredible things to see how multi-generational our carousel guests are,” Peterkin said, giving thanks to NYC Parks and the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.

Offering free rides to guests at the Saturday celebration drew a massive crowd, with a line stretching nearly to Woodhaven Boulevard from the carousel’s front gates. The park’s ample space also accommodated a variety of outdoor activities, including arts and crafts, inflatable bounce houses and games.

The Jamaica Rotary Club allowed for all-day free rides and showed its support for the event alongside the Forest Park Trust, Woodhaven Block Association and congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

An official ribbon cutting is given to the Forest Park Carousel since any record of an official opening day for the Carousel has yet to be found, according to Ed Wendell. Photo by Anthony Medina

Council Member Joann Ariola and Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. also attended the event to show their support.

Despite no longer representing the area due to redistricting, Council Member Robert Holden played a key role in securing the Queens Symphony Orchestra to perform at the bandshell later in the day.

Councilwoman Joann Ariola, whose office also helped provide American Flags around the centennial celebration in honor of Flag Day, joins the celebrations. Photo by Anthony Medina
State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. hands Ed Wendell a special citation for all of his continued work documenting the history of Woodhaven and the 100th-anniversary celebration. Photo by Anthony Medina

The history of the Bandshell also came full circle on Saturday, with the great-granddaughter of George Seuffert Sr. conducting a few musical numbers at the ceremony.

Bandleader George Seuffert Sr. founded The Seuffert Band and initiated free concerts in Forest Park in 1898. His son, George Jr., officially took over the band in 1931 and brought a blend of classical and lighter music to band programs. Seuffert Sr. died in November 1964 in Ridgewood, Queens. A local law in 1979 officially named the bandshell after him.

The actual founding day of the bandshell took place on the same day as the centennial celebration, according to Wendell. He also attributed the creation of the bandshell to Harry Tourte, president of what was called the Homestead Civic Association, who unfortunately passed before seeing the bandshell constructed.

The George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell at Forest Park. Photo by Anthony Medina

The bandshell now accommodates 3,500 people and recently underwent renovations in 1977, with additional upkeep done in recent years.

According to Woodhaven historian Edward (Ed) Wendell, the George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell was created on Saturday, June 15, 100 years ago.

Performances from students at P.S. 97, P.S. 254 and the Queens Symphony Orchestra accompanied the 100-year celebration of the bandshell to end the day of celebration.

The Woodhaven Cultural Historical Society, fulfilling the organization’s cultural aspects, also invited dozens of artists from nearby areas to an art market along Forest Park Drive, only steps away from the bandshell.

Wendell told QNS that the 1920s were the founding years for Woodhaven and the surrounding area, which was once all farmland. He encouraged those with a keen interest in history, such as himself, to also learn from the past as more shared experiences seem to dwindle.