After more than 20 years of false starts and abrupt stops, the carousel meant for Main Street in Cottage Grove is closer than ever to finding a home within the city’s boundaries.
According to Friends of the Carousel committee, the carousel is 90 percent complete and has taken up residence at the King Estates Warehouse after restoration efforts began at the W.O.E. Fairgrounds earlier this year.
“Ed King read a newspaper article describing the open house held at the fairgrounds,” said Friends of the Carousel Committee President Don Williams. “In that article it was stated we would need a larger building with at least a 20-foot high ceiling to erect the carousel indoors to finish the chariots, all the lighting, the mirrors, and the rounding boards.”
As a result, King granted use of a 40’ by 80’ section of the warehouse for the carousel where the attraction will be completed.
The space marked the latest hurdle cleared by the group in bringing the carousel to Cottage Grove. The attraction originally made its way to down after former resident Judy Cash cashed in on a childhood dream of owning a carousel. After inheriting money from a family friend, Cash traveled across the country to purchase the carousel with the hopes of placing it on Main Street. Soon after, various efforts to fund the restoration of the carousel came and went with groups falling short of success over the years.
"Where else can you take your family now where you can leave your worries at the doorstep and just be in a happy place? It's a happy place,” Cash previously told the Sentinel, noting that she would have liked to see children smiling, enjoying the ride. Cash passed away in Nov. of 2017 after a battle with cancer, leaving behind an agreement with the Friends of the Carousel to continue toward her dream of seeing the carousel functional and attracting tourists in Cottage Grove.
To accomplish the goal, the group reached out to the community, receiving in-kind donations mounting $67,000 and cash contributions reaching more than $14,000. Art students at Cottage Grove High School headed the repainting of the animals for the carousel and various businesses have donated material.
The group also estimates that it has garnered more than 3,000 hours of volunteer service but notes it could always use more as it heads toward the finish line.
“As we move into the more business format, we will need additional volunteers for various segments of the operation of the carousel,” Williams wrote, “For example, Albany has 34 volunteers per week to operate their carousel and building operations. Most carousels throughout the west are operated with volunteer help.”
The group currently needs someone to donate bookkeeping experience.
“As chairman, I continue to interview leaders of carousels throughout the west,” Williams wrote in an update on the status of the carousel. “They are all experiencing good turnouts and happiness with the community and visitors.”
And while Cash’s plan was to have the carousel be part of the Main Street landscape, and the project has made progress, it isn’t quite there yet.
The current plan for the carousel is to house it at Brad’s Chevrolet under a lease while, according to Williams, the committee establishes the transition and works to secure funds and land for a permanent home for the carousel.
The next step, according to Williams, is reviewing historical photographs to be placed on the rounding boards of the carousel.
For more information or to volunteer for the carousel, visit cgcarousel.com.