Berkshire Carousel is hoping to be spinning in circles by this June. One of the horses on display at the Dalton Senior Center.
DALTON, Mass. — This month, the operating mechanism for the Berkshire Carousel is set to be delivered from Ohio to a former Crane & Co. stationary factory, where it will be housed, at least for the time being.
Its many pieces will be assembled into a functioning merry-go-round in the coming weeks, according to Berkshire Carousel Executive Director Maria Caccaviello.
She and new owner of the property at 33 Flansburg Ave., Stephen Sears, hope that the artistic attraction will be ready for an unveiling under a tent outside of the building on June 21, where it will operate during the warm weather months.
The 1926 model carousel mechanism, roughly 40-feet around, will be shipped in pieces and assembled in an area adjacent to the space the group is using to house its workshop. Upon its arrival, carousel volunteers will paint, prime, decorate, dress and finally assemble the carousel, according to Caccaviello.
A total of about 400 volunteers have worked on the construction of the carousel to date, including lawyers and accountants, with varying levels of experience carving, painting and stenciling the intricate pieces that will adorn the amusement, said Caccaviello.
She estimates the construction of a building to house the carousel will cost a total of $1.6 million. Given that total, in order to fulfill its vision for a permanent home for its artistic attraction, the Carousel must secure more than $1 million in additional revenue.
A sketch of the group's vision for a new building was created by two volunteers. It displays a pentagonal exterior, lined with tall, arching windows with the carousel logo emboldened atop its main entrance and a red flag waving above the structure. Outside of the structure, the rendering shows benches, lampposts and a portion of grass that will be planted.
Inside the envisioned building, the group plans a restoration shop and educational facility. Birthday parties and events will be held at the center of the new building's interior. It will also include a cafe and country shop.
“We're going to do an old-fashioned sweet shop, with the ice cream, the counter and that kind of thing. To give people a really warm kind of feeling when they come in,” Caccaviello said, comparing the concept to The Vermont Country Store in Manchester, Vt. “It's like yesteryear, so when you walk in you have all those good feelings. Ya know, the penny candies and the smells of fudge — it just, it gives you a really nice feeling.”
Architectural designs have yet to be finalized. Caccaviello said the carousel is working with architect Stephen Barry and Jeffrey Noble to create an architect's rendering of the building, and a building plan, which she estimates to be the group's eighth to date. She said it was fortunate that her group has found such a pleasant place to work in Dalton.
"[Stephen] Sears has been wonderful to us. The volunteers love it. It resembles an old, Coney Island workshop, really, so we love it here. The synergy is great. The town's been wonderful," Caccaviello said.
Sears, owner of the former Crane building in which the carousel workshop is now located, said he is hopeful the group can come up with a sound building plan to present to him for the carousel's projected tenancy. Currently, he is in the early stages of creating a long-term plan for the space that he believes will include commercial businesses, in an effort to create a marketplace in what is essentially Dalton's downtown.
The former Crane building — a 19th-century construct formerly used as a shoe factory — was bought last July by Sears. Sears said he is exploring the costs for accommodating different ventures such as cafes, restaurants, retail shops, professional spaces or light manufacturing.
Sears is very optimistic that the Carousel will procure an effective building plan that fits with his initiatives for the former Crane building in a timely fashion.
"They're in my building, they're operating. I'm happy to have them here. I'm hoping they can come up with a sound business plan," Sears said. "They have to come up with a good plan for the building. If they can do that, they can locate their carousel in the building."
Executive Director Maria Caccaviello said the organization is continuing fund raising efforts to match a state grant.
Sears said he is encouraged by the Carousel's presence in Dalton and its ability to create a connection with the arts that is missing in town.
"Our plans do not depend on them, but their presence is augmenting the area," he said. "I hope they can bring something to our community, that these buildings get redeveloped in a way that is meaningful to the community.
"One thing that they bring is a tie to the arts. There are a lot of people who live here that are interested in that."
As of yet, there has been no formal agreement for permanent occupancy, and no particular timetable as to when that will be created. A letter of intent has been signed in the meantime by both parties, which states that the Carousel will utilize the space indefinitely.
"That's all there is: We're here and he's being gracious," Caccaviello said. “When we can, we contribute to utilities. It's not a mandatory thing, but that's what we agreed on. And then we started talking about his vision and our vision and how wonderful it is to bring people in to a community."
The move to Dalton late last year marked at least the fifth time the project relocated since its inception some eight years ago, including stints in Pittsfield and two separate storefronts in Lanesborough's Berkshire Mall. The Carousel had hoped to stay in Lanesborough, which had supported the venture with a bonding authorization.
"Lanesborough's a great town. They stood up for the match for us. They wouldn't give us the money if we stayed at the mall. And there really wasn't another piece of property for us in Lanesborough,” Caccaviello said, after recent efforts to utilize space at Bill Laston Memorial Park were thwarted mainly by the size of the parcel.
The project was granted $250,000 by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in June. However, the Carousel is short the matching funds for the grant. As of December, the Carousel raised more than $50,000 but Caccaviello said it has until August to raise the rest of the nearly $200,000.
To date, approximately $4 million has been raised by the Carousel, the vast majority of which is from individual private donors. A grant for support of educational programming by Macy's and seed-funding from Greylock Federal Credit Union is the only corporate funding the group has received.
Berkshire Carousel will host two upcoming fundraising events, one a painting class taught by three local artists on Feb. 6 from 7 to 9 p.m., limited to 15 people and with a fee $35 per person.
The other, "A Night Out with Frank Sinatra with Dinner and Dancing," is on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, at First Congregational Church in Dalton. Sponsored by Kelly's Package Store, the event will feature a live band and food catered by Zucchini's Restaurant. Admission is $25 per person; guests are encouraged to buy tickets in advance at Kelly's.
Tickets for both events can be acquired by calling 413-499-0457.
The Carousel is also conducting other fundraising efforts, such as video tape conversions to DVD for $20 a tape, or $15 a tape for three or more.
"This has, in the past, made us a couple thousand dollars. We expect it to make another couple thousand dollars," Caccaviello said.