January 20, 2022

Project aims to revive Dwyer Park attractions

Mission of restoration

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland County Legislator Linda Jones points out the disrepair to a circus wagon featuring a painting of a gorilla Friday at Dwyer Park in Little York.

PREBLE — While walking through Dwyer Memorial Park in Little York a couple weeks ago, county Legislator Linda Jones (R-Homer) saw something that took her back to her childhood.

Hidden out of sight were horses. Model horses you would find on a merry-goround — the same ones Jones remembers riding as a child at the park.

In that memory the horses are pristine and vibrant as they spin in the circle of the ride; and the circus wagons at the park are painted so vividly kids are convinced real animals are inside.

But now, the wagons are decaying, the animals look as healthy as the broken wood they’re made of and the horses have lost their prance.

A painting of a polar bear is shown on the side of circus wagon Friday at Dwyer Park.

Jones is putting together a plan to fix that. In about a week of looking for donations and volunteers to fix the attractions, she has raised more than $1,200 and attracted volunteers from around the county.

“The memories are huge for people around here,” said Jones. “The park was a wonderful place to go. We’ve lost have that back.”

When she first started as a legislator in 2015, Jones brought up the idea of just painting the wagons. She said there were issues of liability for the county, so she let the idea go.

But finding the horses refueled her passion to fix the attractions. She wasn’t going to quit this time.

She put her intentions on her social media channels and the response was instantaneous, she said. Many volunteered time; more wanted to donate money.

In the first 48 hours of posting about the project, Jones said she raised about $700. One of her friends from Florida even wanted to send her a check.

“This is a wonderful community,” Jones said. “Everyone is willing to help at every corner.”

Not wanting people to write checks to her, Jones had a Friends of Dwyer Park account set up at the First National Bank of Dryden to which people could send donations.

A lot of work must be done to get the merry-go-round functioning properly, and the wagons looking like new. The cost remains undetermined, but Jones said Legislature Chairman Charles Sudbrink (R-Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor, Willet) was helping her put together a materials list.

In terms of labor, many residents and businesses have said they would donate their time to help. Jones said many welders have volunteered; county Highway Department Superintendent Phil Krey will have the department help restore the horses and at least three artists will volunteer to do the painting — including Bill Breidinger, one of the artists who originally painted the wagons 44 years ago.

A Homer resident, Breidinger said that like Jones, he spends a lot of time walking through the park with his dog. He sees the overhaul the equipment needs and is excited to be involved again.

“It would be a riot,” Breidinger said.

He said he had a lot of fun painting the wagons the first time, and although there is a lot of work that needs to be done to them, it will be fun to do it again.

When he and three coworkers set out to paint the wagons in 1974, they were not exactly sure what to paint. One of them suggested getting a box of animal crackers and mimicking the art on the side.

Now with 44 more years of painting experience, Breidinger said he wouldn’t mind changing the art work on the wagons a little. He does not have any new ideas yet, but will leave that decision up to the community.

“It would be a nice community project,” Breidinger said. “It is important to keep things up.”

Some steps are yet to be determined, such as whether the wagons need to be moved off the property for the work. Once the merry-go-round begins to take shape, someone will have to decide if it is safe to ride. If not, Jones said, the horses can become stationary; something for the kids to take pictures by.

“We will find ways to get things done, not matter the circumstance,” Jones said.

The work is expected to begin in the next few months. So in the near future, park visitors can see their childhood reborn and share it with a younger generation.