Berkshire Carousel a box office smash on opening weekend

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PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Carousel had a blockbuster opening weekend as thousands of children of all ages — including a soon-to-be newlywed couple — bought tickets to ride an instant classic.

From Friday's grand opening through Monday, more than 5,000 people — at $2 apiece — rode the 33 hand-crafted wooden horses, two chariots, one donkey and spinning tub, according to carousel operators, on Tuesday.

"We had a 101-year-old woman ride a carousel for the first time in her life," said Bruce Goguen.

"I had one gentleman who said he hadn't been on a carousel in 75 years," chimed in Gary Gant.

Goguen and Gant are the ones certified to be at the controls of the amusement ride that saw an expected dip in ridership Tuesday after a busy holiday weekend.

Paul and Diana Dalton, of Pittsfield, took advantage of a quiet noon-hour so their children, Hannah, 5 and Connor, 3 didn't have to wait in line to ride. Hannah chose to saddle up on "Pinky," an early carousel favorite among the riders.

"She has gems and flowers ... her hair is golden too," Hannah said. "I like that."

No amusement ride experience is complete without a trip to the concession stand and gift shop. Flavored popcorn named for some of the horses, locally made ice cream and soft pretzels highlight the carnival-like munchie menu.

As for souvenirs, Kay Tournier has been the go-to person for all things Berkshire Carousel.

"We have some mugs and T-shirts with the horses' names on them," she said.

Operationally, the merry-go-round is running without a hitch, according to carousel director Maria Caccaviello.

"We ran this carousel like we have done it for years," she said. "It shows our volunteers were well prepared."

Caccaviello expects about 80-90 volunteers will be needed for the peak summer months and early fall to staff the ticket booth, concessions, gift shop and assist with the merry-go-round seven days a week.

The carousel has quickly become the place to be with birthday parties, reunions and other group sales filling up the calender, Caccaviello said.

One young man on Friday wasted no time capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the carousel by proposing to his girlfriend — who accepted, said Goguen.

Berkshire Carousel took more than a decade to plan, create and install at the corner of Center and South Church streets.

Pittsfield native Jim Shulman and wife, Jackie, conceived of the project in 2004, with work on the first horse two years later. Hundreds of volunteers spent thousands of hours carving, sanding and painting the horses, donkey, chariots, 14 running boards, all mounted to the decoratively painted 85-year-old frame and mechanism that was refurbished in Ohio two years ago.

Aside from the monetary donations so far toward the final estimated cost of $2.3 million to $2.6 million, dozens of businesses and individuals contributed services and materials at cost or free of charge.

With the enclosed, yearround carousel completed, fundraising continues for the project's second and third phases, primarily the amenities.

Phase 2 is a full concession with an old-fashioned soda fountain and an education department for all ages; Phase 3 is exhibit hall, which will house thousands of pieces of Pittsfield memorabilia along with the first motorized fire truck.

Berkshire Carousel has ample parking with organizers leasing the paved parking lot adjacent to the amusement ride and additional spaces available just up the road on West Street courtesy of Miller Supply Co.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.

If you go ...

What: Berkshire Carousel

Where: Center and South Church streets, Pittsfield

When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Wed, Fri., Sat.; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; and 11 a.m. -6 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Tickets are $2 per ride, or 11 for $20

Parking: South Church Street and the parking lots adjacent to the carousel and at Miller Supply Co. across from The Berkshire Eagle

On the web: Information, including group sales, volunteering and special events, at facebook.com/TheBerkshireCarousel


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