O'Hara's riding companion returns


Monday July 23, 2012

LENOX -- Pittsfield author Kevin O'Hara and his former equine traveling companion were the centers of attraction Sunday afternoon at a fundraiser for the Berkshire Carousel.

O'Hara is the author of "Last of the Donkey Pilgrims," which featured the tales of O'Hara's circumnavigation of Ireland in 1979 when he was accompanied by a small donkey, Missie.

Missie is now deceased, but a replica of her will be one of the characters on the proposed Berkshire Carousel.

Sunday's event, at Jae's Asian Bistro on Route 20, was to raise money for, and awareness of, the project.

Preliminary estimates were unavailable of exactly how much money was raised, but more than 150 supporters were expected to be in attendance at $40 per ticket.

The Berkshire Carousel is more than just a pretty merry-go-round, according to Maria Caccaviello, executive director of Berkshire Carousel.

Rather, it is a massive public art project. More than 300 volunteers and 4,500 students will have combined their efforts upon its completion, Caccaviello said.

It takes about 1,500 hours of work to carve each piece, said Caccaviello. With 36 horses planned, that is a serious accumulation of work time.

In addition, she said, local artists will be painting the animals and "rounding board," which is the inner part of the carousel. A host of local Berkshire scenes, including St. Joseph High school, Mount Greylock and Balance Rock, will be painted on the rounding board, she said.

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"The project is more than just the horses and the artists,' said Caccaviello. "It's about community art."

At Sunday's event, as part of a number of works by local artists, a painting of Missie herself, as she will appear on the carousel, was on display. The portrait was done by local artist Susan Edwards. Both O'Hara and his wife, Belita, pronounced it a true rendering.

"The blanket she has on her back was the blanket she wore on her trip," said Belita O'Hara. "The bridle she wore is accurate, too. It's a fine likeness."

Edwards said she worked from photographs O'Hara had taken of Missie during his trip, as well as a sketch she did herself. The project took about three weeks, she said.

In addition to all this, O'Hara said that the Discovery Channel will be filming a documentary about the carving of Missie, from a block of wood to the final touches of paint. O'Hara said he doesn't' yet know when it will air.

It was a packed house on Sunday, with friends and well-wishers all grabbing Kevin O'Hara or his wife for a momentary chat.

In between chats, O'Hara pondered what it all meant.

"I think the one thing this does is continue the legacy of the journey itself," he mused.

"It still amazes me that a long-haired guy can travel the open road, with a donkey, with no plans for accomodations, and meet so many wonderful people along the way. If there's any way to sum it up, that would be it."

To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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