Donations, crowds are also cause for celebration at storied merry-go-round
Even with a shorter-than-usual season, the Paragon Carousel had a banner year that ended on not just one, but four high notes.
The opening was delayed until Memorial Day, with an early close on Labor Day, but the season proved to be a happy and busy one nonetheless.
“We were determined to bring back the joy, and indeed so many children and adults returned to enjoy the music, the lights, and the magical artistry of the Paragon Carousel,” the board’s president, Marie Schleiff, told The Hull Times. “We were gratified to see so many people taking a ride, and it was nice to see all of the smiling faces. Everyone was just so glad to have the carousel open again.”
The first high note was sounded this past summer when the Hull Redevelopment Authority forgave the remainder of a $150,000 loan (plus interest) that was granted in 1996 to the newly formed nonprofit, the Friends of the Paragon Carousel, and that helped to save the “flying horses” and keep the popular attraction in Hull.
Over the past 26 years, the Friends were able to partially pay down the loan, far exceeding the original principal amount, according to an earlier HRA announcement.
“Forgiving the remainder of the loan allowed the Friends to make some urgent repairs,” Schleiff said.
Secondly, the Friends received an anonymous $5,000 donation, which was followed by a matching pledge to repaint the exterior of the carousel building and begin repairing the 600 transom windows. “While these generous donations won’t cover the entire cost, this work represents a significant beginning to this critical project,” Schleiff explained.
The third high point of the season was seemingly perfect weather during Endless Summer, with the carousel reopening briefly for that celebration. The event drew a crowd to the carousel, not only from Hull but also from surrounding communities.
Although the carousel was already closed for the season (due to a lack of staff when many of the young employees returned to school), a call went out for volunteers to assist restoration curator and safety specialist James Hardison, who has restored many of the horses to their former glory, in operating the carousel and opening the Paragon Park Museum for that event.
“Several folks stepped forward, and the doors reopened. That day was the busiest and one of the happiest of the season,” Schleiff said, adding, “We are always grateful to the Nantasket Chamber of Commerce for their assistance.”
The fourth high note occurred in early October when Hingham resident Lee Forker, one of the carousel’s major benefactors, gathered his family for a private event at the carousel. It followed Forker’s donation of $10,000 to dedicate horse No. 14A as a perpetual adoption in memory of his late wife, Judy, who was also a longtime supporter of the carousel, under the seasonal and perpetual Adopt-A-Horse program.
“This donation allows us to restore the horse to its original beauty,” Schleiff said. “We are now on horse No. 51 out of the 66 total horses, so the adoption program funds this mission. This is the third horse that Lee has perpetually adopted, so he is really one of our Carousel Heroes.”
Asked what she is looking forward to for the next season, Schleiff responded simply: “A total turn to normalcy.” That would mean opening the carousel for the usual Easter celebration, as was done before the pandemic hit, and ending the season after hosting the popular Halloween event.
Both Schleiff and retiring director of operations Jim Callahan expressed appreciation for the support shown by so many, especially during the especially challenging past two years.
“While our supporters have been very generous, we can’t be complacent. Continuing to maintain our base of support is going to be a huge challenge,” Schleiff said. Getting through the winter with the heating system working as it should, would be a big plus, she added.
Callahan is retiring on Nov. 29 after spending two years supervising the creamery during the summer and five years in his current position.
For Callahan, who was in the food service industry for many years, his work with the Paragon Carousel was “my most favorite job ever.”
He voiced respect for Schleiff, who he considers to be “a terrific leader,” and to the board of directors, whose members were appreciative of the knowledge and experience he brought to his work.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Callahan said. “We now have a more efficient operation and staff training. The kids I have hired from Hull and around the South Shore are terrific. They’re one of the biggest pleasures of this job, along with the other staff and our guests.”
He shared with the Times his parting wish for the carousel: “Moving forward, I hope the South Shore community and beyond recognizes that the carousel still needs attention, resources, and support every season and to not take it for granted.”
Donations are welcome and may be made at www.paragoncarousel.com, where it’s also possible to sign up to become a Friends of the Paragon Carousel member. An annual appeal letter will be arriving in the mailboxes of the Carousel’s many supporters in Hull, Hingham, and surrounding communities and as far away as California, Florida, and Canada.