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Timeline: Berkshire Carousel's bumpy 17-year ride

Time to give Berkshire Carousel a whirl - just not as often as before (copy)

Delaney Street, 5, and Al Devereaux join a throng on their horses at the grand opening of the Berkshire Carousel in Pittsfield in 2016.

After thousands and thousands of hours of volunteer labor, and over $2 million in public and private investments, the Berkshire Carousel opened for one strong season in 2016, limped through a second and sharply scaled back its third — after which it fell silent, to the heartbreak of its creators. Here are key points in its rise and fall.

July 2005: Jim Shulman meets Pittsfield Mayor James M. Roberto to discuss his dream of creating a hard-carved carousel celebrating the "golden age" of such amusements, from 1880 to 1930.

Early 2008: Shulman buys a roughly 1-acre plot at 50 Center St. in Pittsfield for $300,000 from CVS Pharmacy as a prospective site.

April 2008: The newly minted Berkshire Carousel Inc. plans silent auctions to raise money, along with a gala, dubbed "Carouselebration." Greylock Federal Credit Union signs on as premier sponsor. Maria Caccaviello of Pittsfield is the project’s executive director. She says the carousel could open in 2011.

April 2009: Fundraising for the carousel advances, despite the advent of the Great Recession, organizers say. Project says it has raised $750,000, including $125,000 in new pledges and donations since September 2008.

April 2010: Shulman appeals for the carousel to be located at The Common in Pittsfield. Concerns would emerge about the high cost of preparing the 50 Center St. site.

August 2010: 150 volunteers are at work, having already logged 7,000 hours carving, sanding and preparing the carousel’s horses.

March 2011: Volunteers move their carving workshop from 5 Whipple St. in Pittsfield to free space at the Berkshire Mall, in the former Gap. Organizers envision a May 2013 opening. Talks later float the idea of locating the carousel inside the mall itself, saving the cost of erecting its own structure.

May 2012: Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi calls for the carousel to be located in his city, lobbying the project’s board to consider The Common on First Street. Caccaviello says she expects the board to decide on a location by July.

July 2012: Bianchi offers $250,000 to have the Berkshire Carousel locate downtown, if it can match that amount. "Downtown Pittsfield is the right place for it," he said.

October 2012: Project announces that the carousel will be built in Lanesborough. Caccaviello says the town’s Select Board has been supportive, as carving work inside the mall has continued for nearly two years.

January 2013: Organizers say they expect to open inside the Berkshire Mall on July 1. Caccaviello says dozens of volunteers are completing 39 wooden horses, one donkey, two chariots and the other hand-carved elements.

June 2013: The carousel will stay in Lanesborough, officials say, but where is uncertain, after the mall is dropped as a location. At Town Meeting, residents agree to let the town borrow $500,000 to put toward the $1.4 million cost of erecting a building for the carousel. The borrowing would be repaid by the carousel.

June 2013: The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund provides a matching grant of $250,000.

September 2013: The carousel site is again changing, with organizers now considering the former Crane stationery factory in Dalton. It is the third location in less than a year. "This is our final destination," Caccaviello says.

January 2014: Organizers say they expect to operate the carousel from June 21 through Oct. 15 in Dalton in a temporary “tent like” structure on the grounds of the former stationery factory. Getting it running would propel fundraising, Caccaviello said. The project needed another $1.6 million, she said. The planned Dalton operation did not happen.

February 2014: A restored 85-year-old carousel frame to be used is delivered to the Dalton workshop.

December 2014: The carousel location shifts back to 50 Center St. in Pittsfield after unnamed donors pledge money to address building costs there. Work continues on pieces at the stationery factory.

April 2015: Caccaviello says $600,000 is in hand to begin the first of three phases of the 9,531-square-foot building at the corner of South Church and Center streets. The money comes from three major donors and a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Organizers have already raised the $1 million for the carousel, awaiting assembly.

June 30, 2015: A groundbreaking ceremony is held. Officials cite a goal of 100,000 rides in the carousel's first year.

October 2015: Foundation work by Maxymillian Technologies continues. Organizers expect the carousel to open in 2016.

February 2016: The new building takes shape, after workers completed the steel frame that will form the octagonal building. Assembly of the carousel was to begin. A cupola is added in April.

July 2016: Thousands of children visit on the carousel’s opening weekend. The weekend attracts 5,000 people who ride for $2 a ticket.

September 2016: With tickets cut to half price, the carousel claims to have provided 27,000 rides in its first summer.

January 2017: The carvers move their workshop into the Clock Tower building and begin restoration work for private clients, with proceeds benefiting the carousel. The shop is ordered closed by the carousel, disappointing participating artists.

June 2017: Organizers say they hope to hit ridership of 50,000 in their second season, operating six days a week through Labor Day. They come up short, after increasing ticket prices from $2 to $3, amid a construction project on nearby West Housatonic Street.

June 2018: In its third season, the carousel opens with dramatically scaled back operations: Saturdays and Saturdays only through Sept. 15. Organizers blame a steep drop in ridership last year and a dwindling number of volunteers able to run and staff the facility. "We need to get back that new-car smell,” Caccaviello says.

April 2019: In an open letter, Shulman calls for community groups to step forward to help support the carousel. The facility does not operate that summer, or any time since.

January 2022: Shulman says the carousel board is considering two unidentified nonprofits as candidates to take over operation.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Managing editor for innovation

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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