DALTON -- A year from now, Berkshire Carousel expects to entertain children of all ages, pending a successful effort to build it a home.

On Sunday, organizers of the volunteer-driven project formally kicked off a $1.6 million capital campaign to pay for the self-contained, year-round facility they expect will house the handcrafted amusement ride and amenities by the end of 2014.

The attraction's board of directors announced two months ago plans to locate the carousel and workshop at the former Crane stationery factory in Dalton as part of a larger redevelopment effort of the complex.

"We hope the momentum generated by the announcement will carry us through, but the fundraiser will be a challenge," said Dalton resident Tom Callahan during the afternoon event of food, drink and live music held at the Wahconah Country Club.

Maria Caccaviello, director of the Berkshire Carousel project, holds a Norman Rockwell piece that will be part of the carousel.
Maria Caccaviello, director of the Berkshire Carousel project, holds a Norman Rockwell piece that will be part of the carousel.

Callahan has been helping recruit members of the capital campaign team he expects will develop a far-reaching fundraising plan.

"We are emphasizing this is a Berkshire County project, we're just fortunate Dalton was selected as the host," he noted.

The one-time Crane property is the third site for the carousel in less than a year -- fourth overall, since the project was conceived in the mid-2000s -- that the group has considered for the construction of a self-contained, year-round attraction. Originally planned for a vacant lot near downtown Pittsfield, the group l also considered the Berkshire Mall and private land, both in Lanesborough, before settling on the center of Dalton.

The carousel workshop, along with the hand- carved wooden horses and other carousel pieces, are currently housed in part of the Flansburg Avenue mill complex, awaiting assembly in a 6,000-square-foot standalone structure planned for behind the south loading dock.

Stephen Sears, owner of the former Crane factory, has said the smokestack and boiler room of the 100,000- square-foot building would be torn down to make room for the carousel -- rent-free. He sees the merry-go-round as a catalyst to attract tenants to his downtown revitalization effort.

"The carousel coming to Dalton is an opportunity to tap into the arts community, an important aspect of economic development in town," he said.

Carousel organizers have already tapped the state for a $250,000 state matching grant toward construction of the carousel building. Carousel organizers have already raised the $1 million to pay for creating the amusement ride.

An artist's rendition of the carousel's future home -- brick façade to match the mill -- and "Cubby," the Dalton horse, are on display at the Dalton Community Recreation Association on Main Street.

Since 2008, more than 300 women and men have spent thousands of hours creating the 32 wooden horses, 14 rounding boards, two chariots, a donkey and other handcrafted items that will adorn the privately funded attraction.

One of the inside running boards will feature Norman Rockwell's "Easter." Stockbridge native Linda Callahan, formerly Linda McGowen, posed as the 8-year-old girl in the 1955 illustration depicting a family of four attending an Easter morning church service.

The wife of Tom Callahan was surprised to learn her likeness would grace the carousel.

"Somebody who did the horses should be on there," she said. "It's remarkable the talents of the many people involved."

Once volunteers wrap up work on the two chariots and replacement horses, they will begin to attach all their handiwork to an 85-year-old carousel frame and operating mechanism, which is being refurbished in Ohio. Carosuel director Maria Caccaviello said the carousel is about a month away from being assembled.