Happy Birthday, pony.

“And the seasons they go ’round and ’round/ And the painted ponies go up and down/ We’re captive on the carousel of time/ We can’t return we can only look behind…” Joni Mitchell first wrote those words for Tom Rush back in 1968, before going on to release the song herself in her 1974 double album, Miles of Aisles. Over four decades have passed since the song was first recorded, and the seasons—and the carousel—continue to go “’round and ‘round” on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. They’ve been doing so for a century.“And the seasons they go ’round and ’round/ And the painted ponies go up and down/ We’re captive on the carousel of time/ We can’t return we can only look behind…” Joni Mitchell first wrote those words for Tom Rush back in 1968, before going on to release the song herself in her 1974 double album, Miles of Aisles. Over four decades have passed since the song was first recorded, and the seasons—and the carousel—continue to go “’round and ‘round” on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. They’ve been doing so for a century.

This month, the Looff Carousel marks a century since it was first installed. It was built by a Danish woodcarver named Charles I.D. Looff, whose earlier work featured in another famous Boardwalk, that one in Coney Island, New York. Unlike modern iterations of the carousel, his horses had real horsehair tails.

On this particular carousel, 71 of “the painted ponies go up and down,” while two are stationary. But the carousel is more than just horses. There is also a special ring toss game, where riders throw brass rings into the gaping mouth of a clown. It’s not as easy as it seems, but lucky riders with good arms are rewarded by bells and lights going off.

The music for the carousel comes from a 100-year-old organ, though additional organs have been added over the years.

For a century, the carousel has been a major attraction of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, even featured in films like The Lost Boys and Sudden Impact. In 1987, it was declared a National Historic Landmark.

As for people who want a faster ride, they can head over to the Looff Roller Coaster, built by Charles’s son Arthur in 1924. It is the oldest functioning wooden scaffolded roller coaster on the West Coast.

Back when it was first opened, the Looff Carousel cost only a nickel. The price has gone up considerably since then, though carousel aficionados will admit that $3 is a fair price for a chance to ride a piece of history, especially when that piece of history is also a national landmark.
Iron and Wine once sang that “Every city father fell/ Off the county carousel.” That may be so, but here in Santa Cruz, the carousel keeps spinning. Read more at MSNBC.