Monday, July 15, 2013

Something Wonderful

     We walked into our hotel today and there it stood. This is what we came to Albany, OR. to see. Actually, it was one of the many items we came to see.
This is one of the 63 animals that will eventually be on the Historic Carousel in Albany, Oregon. So you say, "Well, isn't that nice?" And as it turns out, it is really nice. Briefly, here's the story...
     It was 2002 in Albany, Oregon. The logging industry along with the economy in general, and especially in small towns, was heading in a negative direction. In an effort to revitalize their downtown and bring tourism to their town, the town of Albany decided to get behind the building of this carousel. So they began to plan. The community at large and the businesses of Albany were asked to suggest animal for the carousel, adopt the animals and sponsor their animals. Then the hardest work began. Artists met with sponsors, came up with designs and details. The animals were to be hand carved (in the old fashioned, time honored ways of making carousel animals) hand painted and finished in a gloss automotive-grade sealant (like a shellac, only stronger.)

This is one of the many carvers that was working today. He is currently carving a rooster that will look like the artist's conception on the wall behind him. This is his third animal since he started carving as a volunteer ten years ago. He has already finished two horses. Like his work, all of the carving and painting is done on a volunteer basis. This project currently boasts 200 active volunteers with additional volunteers coming from all over the United States to spend some time working on the animals. To date the volunteers have logged over 145,000 hours. Anyone over the age of 14 years old can contribute hours painting, carving, running the gift shop or being a docent for the guided tours, although you don't have to book a tour. Anyone is welcome to visit the workshop anytime they are open.

   We spent about two hours looking at the animals, making contributions in the gift shop [ read shopping :)] and talking to the artists that were working. There were probably 12-14 animals in different stages of being carved. Another half dozen in the process of being painted (although no painters were working today...volunteers, you know) and about 10 animals that were done and waiting the completion of the project to get their poles. Not only have people sponsored the animals they have also sponsored the retooling of the over-one-hundred-year-old, donated, mechanical motor that will run the carousel, the chariots (seats) and the rounding boards (the decorative facades that make the canopy of the carousel.

This was a particularly lovely example of the finished product. It was adopted by a man and wife (the wife raises alpacas and llamas) who gave it to each other for a Valentine's gift. All the animals have stories behind them. The family that adopted the rooster, pictured above, has their name engraved on the ankle band and the feathers on the rooster's tail will have all their grand children's names on them. There is a beautiful lion that has a saddle of a patchwork globe with the words for "peace" written along the saddle blanket in all the languages of the world, including braille.
     The volunteers that are creating this project hope they can finish the 52 of the 63 planned animals needed for the carousel's opening ride by 2016. They already have plans for a huge building on the workshop site, that will include artist space for conservation and restoration of the carousel in the future, a food court, business offices and carousel museum and gift shop.
     This was well worth the 2 1/2 hour drive to get from Redmond to Albany. If you want to know more about the carousel, the work and/or want to make a donation please visit their website at :  The work these townspeople are doing is an awesome example of cooperation, dedication and community spirit!

BTW... the pictures from the quilt show and the rest of the ones from the carousel workshop are now on Picasa.

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