Berkshire Carousel expands by thousands of pieces thanks to donation from "Circus Man"
DALTON -- He’s known as the "Circus Man."
Dan McGinnis Sr. became fascinated with circuses and carnivals as a child; his father would take him and his two brothers to see the traveling attractions when they came to the Berkshires.
By 1958, he had begun collecting circus/carnival posters, photos and other related items and buying kits from a hobby shop on Tyler Street to create his own scale-model carnival and circus scenes. He has amassed thousands of items and three table-top circus/carnival displays -- completed with scale-model ferris wheels, circus trains and circus tents.
And after years of displaying his private collection at his Claremount Road home, McGinnis is donating his artifacts to a new attraction soon to open in his hometown -- the Berkshire Carousel.
"I’m looking forward to getting this all out of here for people to enjoy," he said. "It’s a shame the collection is just sitting down here [in the finished basement.]"
Berkshire Carousel organizers plan to make McGinnis’ memorabilia part of a museum, one of several aspects of the project planned for the site of the former Crane stationery factory currently being redeveloped by owner Stephen Sears.
Since December, a capital campaign committee has been trying to raise $1.6 million for a year-round, self-contained structure that will house the amusement ride, gift shop and other amenities next to the Crane building.
Carousel officials hope to assemble the carousel and operate it this summer under a tent-like facility, until the 6,000-square foot permanent facility is built. The temporary set-up is an effort to raise awareness -- and money -- to complete the volunteer drive project.
Hundreds of men and women have spent the past eight years planning the project and thousands of hours carving, sanding and painting 33 wooden horses and hand-crafted carousel features that will be attached to a refurbished 85-year-old merry-go-round mechanism.
Carousel Director Maria Caccaviello could not be reached for comment about the collection.
McGinnis, 74, has attended hundreds of circus performances since his childhood, writes for Carnival Magazine and two other trade publications and is a card-carrying member of Circus Fans of American.
His love of the circus and carnivals is how he met his companion of 11 years, Mary Malloy. The couple’s first date -- both had lost spouses to cancer -- was attending the Hannaford Circus at the Big E in West Springfield.
Malloy had never gone to a circus and was soon enamored by what she saw under the big top.
"The dog act was good, then we saw horses perform and the elephants at the end -- it was fun," she said.
McGinnis finds his passion for such entertainment rooted in the fact they are often family owned and family-oriented.
"The human performers have dedicated their lives to do some amazing tricks and they risk their lives to do them," he said.
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