Although it may sound like it, this is not a headline from the early 20th century: Hundreds of people turned out for the opening of a carousel in Pittsfield Friday. With much fanfare and a full house, the Berkshire Carousel started spinning its way into the history books.
“This carousel is the first classical, hand-carved, wooden carousel made in Massachusetts in over a hundred years,” said Jim Shulman.
The carousel is the brainchild of Jim and Jackie Shulman, who now in live in Ohio. Jim, namesake of the longstanding Jim’s House of Shoes in downtown Pittsfield, started what turned into a volunteer effort involving 400 people.
It’s taken 11 years to raise money for the $3 million project and find a suitable site, not to mention hand carving and painting the 30-some horses and carriages. It took 1,800 hours to complete one horse. Joe Turnier is one of the volunteers.
“We have engineers,” Turnier said. “We have master carpenters, master carvers and sculptors.”
After a ribbon cutting, the crowd filed into the red and white carousel building. Among the first riders, Rose Marie Mark who traveled three hours from New Jersey to visit family — and for a spin, of course.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” said Mark.
Mark, whose purse showcased historic buttons detailing her membership in the National Carousel Association, was dressed the part — complete with a cowgirl hat.
“Well, because we’re riding carousels!” Mark explained. “I thought more people would have more spirit and be dressed up in western gear. I really toned it down. I have a fringed vest and boots. I really toned it down for this event.”
Now although Mark wouldn’t spill the beans…
“Oh no, tell Mom that’s something I do not relay to everyone, but I’m over 21,” replied Mark to the question I was raised not to ask.
the carousel is clearly fun for old and young. Seven-year-old Abigail Patton was all smiles, but a little less wordy than her grandmother Linda Thornton.
“It was cool,” said Patton sheepishly.
“All kids like carousels,” Thornton said. “She’s been on carousels in New York and the Cape so she’s used to it, but to have one in her home town…she can come down her when she wants to.”
The carousel lot already has a gift shop and a snack stand but director Maria Caccaviello says the work’s not done.
“Phase two will be an extensive educational programming building which will be 5,000 square feet plus a full-functional ice cream parlor,” Caccaviello said. “Phase three, we have hundreds of historical exhibits from throughout Pittsfield and Berkshire County. We have the first fire truck and ambulance and we’re going to be exhibiting them all. It’s a nice educational piece for the community.”