BUFFALO — ‘Round and ‘round the horses go, chasing one another into a rich history held within intricately-painted fiberglass bodies.
Those same bodies of past carousel stars lie stationary and sanded down in the barn-like studio of Arnette Tiller, a local potter in Buffalo. Tiller, along with local Buffalo craftsman Daniel Walters, have completed the majority of what Tiller described as a process similar to painting a car.
“What started as a dream to bring our historic carousel to the downtown core has blossomed into a complete center for the visual and performing arts, which we offer for the enjoyment of locals and tourists,” Tiller said in an introduction on the building and project’s website, cowboycarouselcenter.com. “When complete, the center will house the only full-sized carousel in Wyoming and the only Cowboy and Indian carousel in the world.”
The space itself contains literature educating visitors about the carousel’s history and has just enough backyard space to one day fit the fully-renovated carousel. Currently, 12 horses have been completed with full body redos and historical labels painted atop a fresh coat of airbrushed color. Twelve more sit half-completed and barely sanded, awaiting love from community members beyond Tiller and Walters.
The carousel and horses were originally from the East Coast before a local man purchased it and brought it out to live out West. He had a craftsman remodel the horses to reflect a traditional cowboy and indian feel, which is how the horses were loved so well during the carousel’s running years in Buffalo.
People from Buffalo, Johnson County and even stretches of Sheridan and other regional areas came to town just to ride.
Tiller, who frequently hosted hordes of children wanting to learn art through pottery in her studio during the summer, invites a slightly older demographic to come in and work on the horses in the capacities they can before the actual paint is applied. The final 12 horses must be sanded to complete matte; any shiny spot will not take paint properly and will come out as a missed spot in the end product. Tiller said she and Walters learned from experience that it’s easier, more efficient and the end product is more professional if they complete the painting themselves.
The artistic expertise and intricacies left behind on the horses come from a mix of artists helping paint the ponies in their past lives. That detail has been replicated by Tiller as best as her abilities allow.
The project has taken much longer than Tiller anticipated, and it still has a long way to go before community members will ride the cowboy and indian ponies round and round.
“It’s taking longer than we thought,” Tiller said. “We just thought we’d buy a lot, put the building up and put the carousel in.”
There wasn’t anything available and the city wasn’t willing to hold the responsibility for the carousel and buildings associated. So, a committee was formed, with Tiller as one of the founding members, and fundraising began. Fundraising continues for a building to house the carousel, which has yet to be started in full force.
“We’ll build the building when we raise the money,” Tiller said. “We won’t go into debt to build the building.”
The building funding totals around $700,000. Tiller remained optimistic, though, comparing the building to a hotel build costing far more. The committee anticipates launching a capital campaign for the building itself, unless someone would like naming rights on the building by donating a full $750,000, Tiller half-joked.
An entire donation structure has been established for those wishing to contribute financially to the project and can be found online.
Until then, the ponies are the top priority for Tiller and the committee, and fundraising for future aspects of the project. To volunteer with the ponies, call the Cowboy Carousel Center at 307-217-4084. To visit and learn more about the project and history, visit the center at 59 N. Lobban Ave. in Buffalo.