Hand-carved horses for the Berkshire Carousel are finished and ready to go when the ride opens on June 21 in a temporary structure in Dalton.
Hand-carved horses for the Berkshire Carousel are finished and ready to go when the ride opens on June 21 in a temporary structure in Dalton. (Ben Garver/Berkshire Eagle Staff)

DALTON -- The long-awaited Berkshire Carousel should be entertaining children of all ages this summer.

Organizers expect volunteers to operate the carousel June 21 through Oct. 15, the number of days and hours yet to be determined. The attraction will be housed in a temporary tent-like structure on the grounds of the former Crane stationery factory in Dalton.

Carousel Director Maria Caccaviello said on Tuesday debuting the amusement ride before a permanent structure is built will help raise the $1.6 million needed to erect the year-round facility. Construction of the stand-alone 6,000-square-foot building should start this summer and hopefully will be ready to house the ride by the end of 2014.

"There's no sense storing it away," she said. "This way people can see it, enjoy it and we'll generate some money, too."

Carousel representatives and Stephen Sears, owner of the Flansburg Avenue mill complex, plan to meet soon with Dalton officials regarding permits for the temporary and permanent structures.

Meanwhile, a capital campaign committee has begun soliciting donations from Dalton residents and businesses as part of a fundraising effort soon to expand countywide and beyond.

"While the carousel is in Dalton, from the get-go we've underscored this is a Berkshire project," said Tom Callahan, a campaign leader.

Eight years in the making, Berkshire Carousel will feature 33 hand-carved and painted wooden horses, 14 rounding boards, two chariots and a donkey. They will be mounted on an 85-year-old carousel frame and mechanism being refurbished in Ohio. Organizers expect the frame to arrive next month. It will be given a decorative paint job before the carousel is assembled in time for opening day. Donations totaling $1 million already have paid for the amusement ride itself.

Last fall, Berkshire Carousel relocated its workshop and the carousel pieces from the Berkshire Mall to Dalton after plans fell through to locate the project in Lanesborough.

The carousel's proposed permanent home, planned for behind the south loading dock of the former Crane factory, will also include a gift shop and other amenities.

Sears 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 of the mill complex.

An artist's rendition of the carousel building -- brick façade to match the mill -- and one of the horses are on display at the Dalton Community Recreation Association on Main Street.

Since 2008, more than 300 men and women have spent thousands of hours, carving, sanding and painting the wooden horses and other hand-crafted items that will adorn the privately funded attraction.

Marjie Linburg, longtime volunteer and capital campaign committee member, says the carousel has been a labor of love for all involved.

"I'm thrilled it gets to run this summer," she said. "People have been talking about it and pouring their hearts in it for years."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233

How to help ...

The Berkshire Carousel capital campaign is under way, seeking $1.6 million toward a year-round facility for the amusement ride in downtown Dalton

n To donate, send checks to Berkshire Carousel, P. O. Box 23, Dalton, Mass. 01227, attn. Capital Fund.

n To volunteer, contact Maria Caccaviello at maria@berkshirecarousel.com.