Monday, August 15, 2016

COAA - Who Knew?

The other day we were meeting Patti and Neil for dinner at Tiger Noodle in Princeton when we saw this out the car window near the police station:

Then we saw this in front of the Garden Theater on Nassau Street:

Um...okay...I bite. What's up?

Our plan to stroll down Nassau Street after dinner was thwarted by a massive thunderstorm. We came back on Sunday to see we could learn more. A Google search on "Carillons in Princeton" and a Facebook post yielded no results, so a trip in person was needed.

Sunday August 7 we parked at the municipal building and spoke to the owner of the first carousel organ (the Diamond Jubliee Organ), as well as a couple of other people wearing convention badges. One "kid" (he was probably in his early 20s, but seemed like a kid to me) from California admitted he is one of the youngest members of COAA. COAA? Carousel Organ Association of America. They often meet in California, or at Kennywood Amusement Park (in Pennsylvania). Not too long ago they met in Montgomery, NJ in the backyard of one of the members who happens to personally own a number of these.

Carousel Organs are what they sound like -- the self-contained, mechanical music instruments that play music as carousel horses go around and around. 

A couple of the owners invited us to look at the back of their instruments -- where the music happens. Over the years many of these have been converted to play from an iPod or other similar tiny device. Not as magical looking, but owners say it sounds the same, takes up much less space, can be backed up, and is not as easy to damage (especially if you have backed it up first). 

Here is the back side of one running on music reminiscent of a player piano:

I will admit the scale is hard to imagine based on my photos. The first one is about the size of a semi-truck. They go down to portable ones, such as this one. I suspect they get even smaller, but at the end of the Organ Rally many enthusiasts had already started for home. The downpour on Saturday did not help (fortunately it did not start pouring until after the event stopped for the night at 5).

This picture gives a better sense of the scale. As I was talking to the gentleman above, the owners of the one below were dismantling it for their car ride home. People came from quite a distance. I spoke with someone from California (he does not have his own carousel organ -- yet). Someone else from Massachusetts, and Arkansas. All told there were 10 big ones on display, and others roaming around with their hand-held carousel organs.

The backside of the one above
Most were by themselves. In Palmer Square two were placed side by side, thus making them have to take turns. At least two did not return on Sunday. I was told one had broken part so he went home to Montgomery, NJ and the other had another event that day.

More details about the Princeton Rally can be found HERE.

According to the COAA website (, the next rally will be in November in Mississippi. See you there?

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