Gene Juillierat saw the horse and started crying.
“I remember this horse,” the 78-year-old from Youngstown, Ohio, said, wiping his face with a handkerchief. “I used to say, ‘Giddy-up, go.’”
Juillierat’s reaction was actually quite typical last Friday morning in DUMBO as nearly 100 seniors from that eastern Ohio city converged on Jane’s Carousel — the lovingly restored, 1920s-era merry-go-round that, 25 years ago, was part of Youngstown’s Idora theme park.
Joan Yanchick organized the reunion after she saw a news segment about the carousel, which Jane Walentas — wife of DUMBO megadeveloper David Walentas — purchased at auction in 1984, and then spent 22 years renovating.
Yanchick immediately knew she had to bring those residents — those who shared childhood memories, summer jobs and prom dates — to the refurbished version.
“This [carousel] is extraordinary, and it is every bit as good as I imagined it,” said Yanchick, noting that four generations of her family have ridden the carousel. “But it was not this beautiful before.”
The 100-person group ranged in age from early 20s to 90s, and when Walentas turned on the carousel, the waterworks came out.
Mickey Rindin, 78, whose father co-owned the park, said he remembered the hours he used to spend polishing the pine floor when he was 15.
And for June Zordich, 67, the trip brought back memories of her junior prom, riding on the horses in her dress.
“We had our all-city prom at the ballroom in the park, so we went on the carousel in our gowns,” Zordich said.
For her part, Walentas stopped crying long enough to take pictures with the visitors and accept a proclamation from the Youngstown mayor, Jay Williams, who sent his wishes with the emissaries.
The trip came as Walentas is collecting signatures to get the carousel included in the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront development. Walentas has said she will donate the carousel and a permanent, protective structure to house it.