Fanfare Organs Return to Olcott | Lifestyles
A Band Organ Rally returns to Olcott next weekend after a year of silence for “The Happiest Music On Earth”.
The Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) plans to once again ignite the imaginations of spectators with more than 30 mechanical creations – both old and new – in and around Krull Park from 11am to 5pm on the 24th and 25th. July.
Dan Wilke, a COAA organizer, said he first saw an orchestral organ near Olcott’s carousel when he was a child.
“I developed an interest in these things when I was 3, and coincidentally in the ’60s there were still two amusement parks in Olcott,” Wilke said. “They both had harmony organs, and the one, in which the merry-go-round skeleton still sits in front of the Lion Pavilion in Krull Park… there was a harmony organ on it. I was absolutely fascinated by it and I developed an interest in these things when I was three and it was nothing my parents cared about or collected, I just developed that interest on my own.
Wilke said he liked the music coming out in front of them, that the drums that played by themselves were “clean” and at the back there was “that big wheel that was spinning”.
“To a 3 year old who was fascinated by moving belts and pulleys and wheels and things like that?” ” he said. “It was just the cat’s meow.”
Niagara County has a special relationship with the harmony organ industry, as it was a leading manufacturer from the 1890s to the 1930s. Five orchestral organ production companies have established themselves in North Tonawanda, the largest being Wurlitzer, which has also had an interesting history.
In 1908, Wurlitzer approached Kleist, owner of the North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory, to sell the business to them and the result was that Wurlitzer moved to North Tonawanda, where the Wurlitzer building can still be seen on Niagara Falls Boulevard.
“Wurlitzer was buying instruments from de Kleist in northern Tonawanda,” Wilke said. “Long story short, de Kleist ran for mayor in 1906 and his organ business took a back seat and production was dwindling and Wurlitzer was not getting the instruments he needed to fill his orders. … This is what brought Wulitzer to North Tonawanda.
What can orchestral organ fans expect?
“Organ owners are happy when people come and they are interested. Talk to the organ operators, tell them about the organs, ask them questions, ask about the music – if there’s anything in particular you want to hear – they love it! Wilke said. “The fact that we travel so far, we pay our own way, the bigger ones are on trailers. … To pay for all of this and do it for almost free – just because we like to get together to entertain audiences – either we love it or we’re crazy. Or both!”