Naples mall closing popular carousel; ‘Miss Mary’ says goodbye

A family pastime has been shuttered at the Coastland Center Mall in Naples because of the pandemic.

The carousel – and the woman who has been running it for 10 years – are saying goodbye.

When Jennifer Lee goes to Coastland Center Mall, she goes to shop – and to see Mary Warder.

Mary always made it exciting.”

Miss Mary and the carousel.

My niece was a year her first ride and she’s nine now, so I’ve probably known Mary at least 10 years,” Lee said.

Warder is hard to miss. From her cowboy hat to her contagious smile, she’s the one making the wheels turn at the carousel in the mall’s food court.

“I’m sort of the grandmother at the mall, the mom of the mall,” Warder said.

Mall management wouldn’t let her talk on camera, but Lee said Warder makes everyone’s day better.

She was kind of the light, the minute you walked in there, you know, you just knew it was gonna be a good day,” Lee said.

But Warder’s days of operating the spinning teacups and colorful horses are just about over. Friday marks the end of the ride.

It’s going to be sad; it’s going to be hard,” Lee said.

The carousel is closing due to the pandemic and Warder won’t be in her usual spot.

“I will miss the children deeply but I can come to the mall and they recognize me by my cowgirl hat.”

While the family pastime packs up, Warder knows the lessons learned at the carousel will live on.

“They never forget the memories that they grew up with, that were kindness and gentleness and somebody encouraging them and loving them and saying something nice to them,” Warder said.

Coastland management said it’s working to bring “new and fresh” entertainment options to the mall.

Reporter:Gail Levy
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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