Carousel project in transition, moving forward

Judy Cash wanted to place a carousel in Bohemia Park. Twenty years later, she's still waiting. 

Cash, along with her husband Greg, have been paired with the Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel for a little over a year--the latest effort in two decade-old fight to bring the attraction to Cottage Grove. And while this effort's momentum has outlasted the groups of yesteryear, there's still a long, slow marathon of fundraising and public relations work before the ting and twang of merry-go-round music floats down Main St. 

"I would like to see that. I would like to see the kids smiling," Cash said, her voice a bit lower than it was six months ago and her energy slightly muted. She has waited 20 years, since she first saw the carousel in a trade magazine in the 1990s, to watch local children race around the platforms and ride the collection of animals side-by-side with the children of tourists, come to spend the day in the Grove. But as fundraising stalls and the bureaucracy of such projects continues to strangle efforts, there's a possibility Cash may never see the carousel in the park. 

She's been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. 

"There's no cure," she said. 

"Some people want to hurry up because they don't know how long I'll be here," she said with a smile edging at both corners of her mouth. "Neither do I. I don't have time to waste," she said. 

She walks with canes now, one on each arm, but her passion for the project has not dulled. Cash still holds ownership of the carousel and she says she understands the uncomfortable head-scratching that may be occurring in sects of town over the arrangements. 

"The reason I still own it is because of what happened last time; nothing," she said. "Nothing happened last time and if the city had owned it, it would have been piece-mealed out and that would have been the last we saw of it." 

Now, Cash says if something were to happen to her, the attraction goes to her family which can sell it for market value. Thus, the complication of time. 

If the Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel successfully run the attraction for two years, the structure then goes to the group. 

"I'd like to see it up and running," Cash said. "I had no plans for it when I bought it. I just saw it and I always wanted one and it was like a kid in a candy store."

Plans have since taken shape, however, over the course of the last 20 years. One of the first efforts yielded an official non-profit status for the group. Current efforts have seen the group pair with students from the University of Oregon for public relations campaigns and "no-show" banquets aimed at garnering donations for the project. 

While the Friends of the Carousel is a completely voluntary organization, the group does need to hire professionals to create architectural drawings and others to help map out where the carousel may live in the city. Ideally, according to the group, Main St. would eventually house the attraction but so far, space is limited and prices are climbing. 

Not all work has ceased over money concerns, though. Local students at Cottage Grove High School took on the task of refurbishing the animals and plan to continue the project into the coming school year. Last week, EPUD volunteered its time and equipment to help raise the center mast of the carousel at the WOE Fairgrounds so the community could glean a visual of the entire attraction. 

Changes are underway, however. Longtime supporter Don Williams has taken a step back from his leadership role in the group but will continue to advocate for the carousel. 

"Carousel's didn't start as nice little things," Cash said. "They started as training for warriors. They had brass rings hanging and they would go around on horses and to prove their worth, they'd have to capture the brass ring on their sword." 

A cancer warrior herself, Cash's brass ring is the completion of the carousel project. 

"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." 


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