LAWRENCE COUNTY FAIR Round and round
By VERONICA GORLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Big band tunes, originating from a remote corner of the Lawrence County Fairgrounds, wafted through the air and put many fairgoers in a nostalgic frame of mind.
The old, familiar sound reminded them of carousels, of days spent at amusement parks as a child.
For some fair spectators, the music brought memories of Idora Park.
The band organ from Idora Park's carousel, now owned by DeBence Antique Music World Museum in Franklin, Pa., made an appearance Wednesday at the Lawrence County Fair, which runs through Saturday at the fairgrounds on Pa. Route 108.
"People love it," Martin Anderson said of the organ. Anderson, of Seneca, Pa., volunteers at the museum as a tour guide and helps maintain the antique music-makers.
"The kids are fascinated," Anderson said.
Part of history: The organ may amuse younger generations, but for older fairgoers, it's a part of their history.
Seeing the instrument rekindled fond memories of Idora Park for Sarah Kelly, 61, of New Castle.
"My parents always took us, and I loved the roller coaster. I remember the carousel, but the best thing at Idora was the roller coaster. My dad took me on it since I was 5."
Even those who never had visited Idora appreciated the antique organ for its historical value.
"It's great," said Betty Braun, 44, of New Castle. "This is a wonderful sound. You can hear it all over the fair, and it kind of draws you in."
"When I saw this in the flier, I wanted to be sure to see this today," she continued.
Bob Fleming, one of the fair directors, is pleased the organ is a part of this year's fair.
"It's a piece of memorabilia," he said. "People who used to go to Idora Park can enjoy the music again."
Idora Park opened in 1895 off Canfield Road in Youngstown.
Before the big Idora Park fire in 1984, antique collectors Jake and Elizabeth DeBence bought the carousel organ for their museum of antiquated mechanical instruments.
The couple began collecting mechanical instruments in the 1940s. Originally housed in a barn, their museum opened to the public in 1965.
City's purchase: When her husband died in 1992, Elizabeth wanted to sell the collection. Offers from Wayne Newton, Dolly Parton and businessmen in Tokyo were turned down because Elizabeth wanted to keep the museum in the area, according to Lynn Zillmer, executive director of the museum. Franklin's Chamber of Commerce then decided to make the museum a nonprofit organization and in seven months raised $1.2 million to buy the collection in 1993.
Named the DeBence Antique Music World Museum, the collection was moved from the DeBence farm to the old G.C. Murphy Five-and-Dime Store on Liberty Street in downtown Franklin.
The museum houses more than 100 antique mechanical musical instruments, many of which still are operational, dating from the mid-1800s to the 1940s. The collection includes music boxes, calliopes, orchestrions, nickelodeons, phonographs and band organs such as the Idora Park band organ.
Zillmer said the organ has received a wonderful response.
"People are just thrilled to death to see it and hear it, especially people who were there at Idora Park," she said.