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Long-time Carousel Museum employee receives award for restoring Bushnell Carousel Horses

From left: Judy Baker, Master Painter and resident of Simsbury, Sara Bronin, wife of Mayor Luke Bronin, and Louise DeMars, Executive Director of New Carousel Museum and Manager of the Bushnell Park Carousel, accept the National Carousel Association award from Director Jim Shulman for the group’s stellar restoration of the 102 year old Bushnell Park Carousel on September 17th in Hartford. Back row: Architect Joel Raphael and Dr. Vicky Biondi from the New England Carousel Museum.

From left: Judy Baker, Master Painter and resident of Simsbury, Sara Bronin, wife of Mayor Luke Bronin, and Louise DeMars, Executive Director of New Carousel Museum and Manager of the Bushnell Park Carousel, accept the National Carousel Association award from Director Jim Shulman for the group’s stellar restoration of the 102 year old Bushnell Park Carousel on September 17th in Hartford. Back row: Architect Joel Raphael and Dr. Vicky Biondi from the New England Carousel Museum.

While many Connecticut residents over age 55 are postponing retirement strictly for financial reasons, others are finding it to be the most fulfilling time of their careers. On Saturday, September 17th, Judy Baker, 75, of Simsbury, was honored for her contributions to the ten-year Bushnell Park Carousel restoration project.

Baker works as a Master Painter and Head of Restoration at the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol.

At the ceremony in Hartford, Director Jim Shulman presented the annual National Carousel Association (NCA) award for the group’s stellar restoration of the 102 year old Bushnell Park Carousel. This distinction is based on historic significance, innate quality or character, and a proven program of restoration and maintenance.

Louise DeMars, Executive Director of the New England Carousel Museum and the Bushnell Park Carousel, spearheaded the effort with the assistance of Baker, Dr. Juan Andreu, Master Carver and Lisa Ronalter, Painter, Ron Martin, overcoat specialist and other talented craftspeople.

“It is a privilege to be part of the amazing team who took on the important mission to preserve a Hartford icon,” said Baker. “I love what I do and it’s so rewarding to know that others will be able to appreciate it for generations.”

Baker notes that the process begins by stripping off all paint, making repairs, much sanding, then priming and painting. Colored paint is mixed by hand using the same turn-of-the-century formula, minus the lead, and brushed on using a blending technique after 23 karat gold leaf is applied. Coats of clear varnish are the last step. Each horse takes two people approximately 30 hours to complete.

Baker started working at the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol 28 years ago as a museum educator promoting the art and history of the carousel. However, she quickly found her calling in the restoration room.

“I was like a kid in a candy store when I saw the process of restoring the old horses,” explains Baker. “I had always loved art and after showing them my portfolio I was accepted as an apprentice to learn the painting techniques that bring the wonderful animals to life.”

Judy and her husband Richard moved to the active adult community in Simsbury four years ago to enjoy a stress-free lifestyle.

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