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As water rises, man sleeps beside carousel he restored


April 11, 1997
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EST

WAHPETON, North Dakota (CNN) -- Only a few vintage Stillman carousels remain in the United States. And a pristine example is in Wahpeton, North Dakota -- along the rising floodwaters of the Red River.

Bought by the city in 1993, the carousel is one of Wahpeton's most valued treasures. But as it sits in Chahinkapa Park, it is at the mercy of the river's icy waters.

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CNN's Ed Garsten reports
(1.6M/46 sec. QuickTime movie)

That has Lonnie Halverson worried. The retired sheriff's deputy has spent 70 to 80 hours lovingly restoring each of the carousel's 20 horses. If that meant taking apart a horse and recarving it, then so be it.


So as floodwaters began creeping into this part of North Dakota, Halverson began an around-the-clock vigil at the carousel.

"I have my table, electric fry pan, toaster right here. I always have coffee, and my sleeping quarters are over here, when I do sleep," he says. "I've been getting a few hours sleep, but it's worth it to save the carousel."

High school students pitched in and helped build a dike with 25,000 sandbags around the building housing the ride and the old restored chapel next door.

1926 carousel

They were just in time. "It was real scary," Halverson says. "We had 2-foot waves with whitecaps beating against the sandbags."

So Halverson stands guard, surveying the sandbag wall that protects the treasure he's worked so hard to restore.

The Red River has been rising again and is expected to crest for the second time over the weekend. That means Halverson won't be going home anytime soon.

"This river is not going to beat us," he vows.


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