DALTON -- The heart of the Berkshire Carousel has arrived, signaling completion is near for the eight-year project expected to entertain children of all ages for decades to come.

The 85-year-old refurbished carousel frame and mechanism was delivered Friday afternoon to the former Crane stationery factory on Flansburg Avenue, home for the long-awaited amusement ride. Volunteers spent more than two hours unloading some 400 pieces -- several weighing hundreds of pounds -- from a tractor trailer that traveled over 600 miles from Marion, Ohio to Dalton.

Carousel & Carvings in Marion restored the carousel machinery, at a cost of $350,000 of the $1 million organizers raised to construct the merry-go-round on the Flansburg Avenue site. Currently, a capital campaign committee is seeking another $1.6 million in donations to pay for the self-contained year-round structure that will house the carousel next to the Crane building.

After nearly eight years of planning and hundreds of volunteers spending thousands of hours carving, sanding and painting the 33 wooden horses and other hand-crafted caro-
usel features, attaching them to the frame is a couple months away.

"This is the home stretch for the carousel -- the day we've been waiting for," said Berkshire Carousel Director Maria Caccaviello referring to the frame's arrival.

"This is real progress getting the machinery," added Tom Callahan, a lead organizer of the capital fund drive.


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Caccaviello noted a representative from Carousel & Carvings will come in May for two weeks to oversee the assemblage. The carousel will be temporarily housed in a tent-like structure, until the permanent building is erected. Organizers had planned to begin operating the amusement ride on a limited basis from June 21 to Oct. 15, in part, to help raise money and awareness for its new home.

But the debut has been postponed indefinitely due to an "unexpected fundraising expense" of installing handicap accessible bathrooms in the carousel workshop located inside the former factory. Caccaviello has said $20,000 to $40,000 is needed -- depending on the final cost estimate -- for the restrooms, which shouldn't take long to build with mostly volunteer help. Once bathrooms are ready, the carousel should be open for business sometime this summer.

As for construction of the standalone 6,000-square-foot building, organizers say that could start this summer and hopefully will be ready to house the ride by the end of 2014.

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

Fundraising for the $1.6 million facility that began two months ago is off to a modest start with $65,000 in hand, but should pick up as the capital campaign committee soon launches a county-wide and beyond solicitation.

Meanwhile, carousel representatives and Stephen Sears, owner of the former Crane factory, are working with Dalton officials to secure permits for the temporary and permanent structures.

"The support from Town Hall and the Select Board has been tremendous," said Callahan. "Their advice is showing us how to manage the site and do it right."

Sears has said the old powerhouse of the 100,000-square-foot building would be torn down to make room for the carousel -- rent free. He sees the attraction as a catalyst to attract tenants to his downtown revitalization effort of the late 1880s manufacturing 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.

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.


Upcoming events/fundraisers:

What: International wine and food tasting

When: 4-7 p.m. March 22

Where: Ventfort Hall, 104 Walker St., Lenox

Tickets: $35 at the door; $30 in advance at Kelly's Package Store
in Dalton.

Reservations: (413) 499-0457


What: Spend an Evening Painting with the Pony Painters. Enjoy wine and chocolates and learn how to paint those who've been painting the carousel pieces.

When: 7 to 9 p.m., March 26

Where: First Congregational Church, Dalton

Cost: $35; Class size is limited, so call (413)-499-0457 for a reservation.