COTTAGE GROVE - The sight of volunteers carrying carousel horses, bunnies and a zebra around downtown Cottage Grove turned heads and slowed traffic Tuesday.
The volunteers lugged the metal-and-wooden menagerie into businesses, where the animals replaced cowboy clothes, antiques and other wares in shop windows. The colorful animals, some almost 100 years old, are among the centerpieces in a plan by the Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel to site a carousel on Main Street within a new brick building.
Don Williams, the cochairman of the Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel, said the group estimates the cost of realizing its goal at more than $700,000 for a vacant lot, installation of the carousel and construction of the building to house it. So far, the group has $3,500, and it has begun the search for donations and grants. If funding can be secured, the carousel could be up and running by summer 2019.
Aside from its aesthetic and historic appeal, a carousel in Cottage Grove has an economic development component.
Williams, 79, a retired sawmill safety manager, said that the carousel would draw travelers on Interstate 5 into downtown Cottage Grove and put the town on par with other Oregon communities that feature carousels.
Carousels already draw tourists to Salem and Seaside, Williams said. Albany has a large carousel in the works, also aimed at luring I-5 travelers, and he pointed out that the carousel in Roaring Rapids Pizza Co. in Glenwood draws customers.
"Carousels are very popular; they are kind of like covered bridges," Williams said.
Judy Cash, a retired nurse from Cottage Grove, bought the complete carousel - 30 animals - from a seller on the East Coast in 1995. Movers hauled it by truck across the country. Cash, 71, has hoped ever since to see her carousel animals spinning to the delight of the people in her south Lane County town.
"I just wanted Cottage Grove to have one," she said. She cochairs the Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel with Williams.
Her whimsical dream began with a surprise windfall.
In the 1990s, Cash and her husband helped an ailing man, who surprised them when he left them money in his will. Her husband used his share to buy an English tank, living out his boyhood dream. She decided to follow in the spirit of his example.
Ever since she was child, Cash has been fond of carousels. She said the musical amusement rides, long associated with childhood, summer and carnivals, make people smile.
"It's like riding on imagination," Cash said.
She paid $43,000 for the carousel more than 20 years ago, buying it from a Virginia resort town. The Allan Herschell Company, based in New York, built the carousel in the 1920s. It was a traveling model, designed to be packed up and moved from one county fair to the next.
Cash's dream for the carousel evolved slowly. For the past 15 years, the carousel animals were stored in her sister's barn near Cottage Grove. Each weighs between 50 and 75 pounds. Some are wood; others are molded metal, painted with bright colors and featuring a fancy harness.
About a year ago, with the help of friends, Cash began the carousel campaign. She figured that by placing the carousel pieces in businesses in downtown Cottage Grove, it would give the project visibility and - she hoped - gather support and funding. Helped by South Lane County Fire Department firefighters and paramedics, members of the Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel on Tuesday set up about a dozen of the carousel animals around town.
Volunteers put horses in Umpqua Bank and Schweitzer's Casual Wear; bunnies in Shampoo Dolls Salon and the zebra in 5 Flying Monkeys antique shop, among other installations.
Business owners and leaders were allowed to choose which carousel animal they wanted to display in their window.
Heather Tucker, the Umpqua Bank assistant vice president in Cottage Grove, said she opted for a black horse with purple, green and pink tack because she liked the colors.
She supports the Friends of the Cottage Grove Carrousel, agreeing with Williams and Cash that it would draw people downtown.
"The area they are looking at going in is perfect for it," Tucker said.
For years, the lot on the block between north Sixth and Seventh streets has been empty, ever since a fire destroyed the building that had been there. Buying the lot would cost about $58,000, according to the group. Fixing up the mechanics of the carousel, including installing a new electric motor, would cost about $20,000.
The bulk of the money that the Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel are planning to raise would pay for the carousel's building. Plans call for a 54-ft. by 95-ft. structure, not only to enclose the carousel but for a souvenir shop and wooden animal carving workshop. The building would feature a meeting room large enough to accommodate 60 people.
The lot is just east of the Carousel Delicatessen & Ice Cream Parlor; the name is a coincidence. But its owner, Judd Van Gorder, said that having a working carousel next door would be great for business. Gorder, who has owned a local bed and breakfast since 1999, opened the deli in January with his son. He said he and his wife named it carousel because of their fondness for the old-fashioned attraction. And what would they do if the Cottage Grove Carousel became a reality, right next door?
"We'd like to punch a hole in the wall" to allow deli customers to access the carousel, he said.
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