This 100-year-old carousel horse is finding new life with the Berkshire Carousel.
DALTON, Mass. — After handcarving and painting dozens of horses, Berkshire Carousel volunteers are using their skills to help others.
The organization has turned its specialty knowledge of rebuilding carousel horses into a form of fundraising, but doing so for collectors across the nation. With two in the shop and six more on the way, the volunteers are still busy doing what they do best.
"We don't just build a carousel as we are doing now, but we're rebuilding history," said Executive Director Maria Caccaviello on Wednesday as she showed the progress on a century-old horse that had fallen into disrepair before being sent to the organization.
"This is a whole process for us and it really has became a business."
It started months ago when someone who owned a carousel horse saw all of the new horses the organization was building. The vintage horse was brought to Berkshire Carousel and asked to be restored; the volunteers looked into the history, matched colors to the original and slowly took it apart and rebuilt it.
Collectors from all over the country had seen the Berkshire Carousel's work online and began reaching out to the organization. And with the horses already completed for the carousel expected to be spinning next July, volunteers started taking on more and more rebuilding projects, realizing that they have found another source of income.
"People are looking at our website and admiring the work of our volunteers," Caccaviello said. "We're getting national recognition ... people trust our judgment."
Meanwhile, the organization is keeping busy with educational programming, mostly via sponsorship that allows children to participate for free. On Monday, Aug. 18, Macy's is sponsoring a children's painting session at Hilltop Orchards starting at 10 a.m. Children will design and ultimately paint on canvas a carousel horse of their own.
"They will all go home with a finished canvas," Caccaviello said.
Macy's is paying for all of the supplies to allow children to participate for free, and the organization is giving its time because department store has donated nearly $10,000 over the years to the carousel. Caccaviello called the community event a "celebration" of the partnership the organization has with both the Berkshires and Macy's.
The educational factor isn't just about art though. The programs incorporates physics, science and technology as well to explain the history and mechanics of carousels.
"We have an extensive curriculum," Caccaviello said.
Weekend and after-school programs were held during the carousel's time at the Berkshire Mall and are expected to start back up along with new programs at its new Flansburg Road location in September.
Hometown Pride, sponsored by Barbara Hassan, is ready to spin once the Berkshire Carousel installs the pavilion.
A section of the workshop is also being transformed into an art gallery and event space. Caccaviello says she has already arranged a catered art gallery nights — starting on Sept. 19 — with former Reva Cafe owner Aura Whitman, who now runs the catering company Naturally. Caccaviello said a program with Tunnel City Coffee is also in the works.
The array of programs will continue when the carousel is finally installed. The organization was recently given a pavilion from the YMCA to to house the completed carousel once it is painted and glass walls installed.
In the fall, contractors will be preparing the site and bringing in the pavilion. Next summer, the carousel itself will be installed.
"We're more concerned with getting the location ready," Caccaviello said.
The organization is about halfway to its goal of $1.6 million for the two phases of the project. The group has just about enough money to get the carousel up and running before launching its next phase.