The lights on the Paragon Carousel are out because there is not enough money to pay the electricity bill that keeps them burning brightly.
“I can’t remember a night since I joined the Friends in 2008 when the carousel was dark,” Friends of the Paragon Carousel President Marie Schleiff laments. “The lit carousel helps make that corner joyful.”
The carousel and other Hull nonprofits such as Wellspring Multi-Service Center, Hull Pride, and the Hull Garden Club are not alone in cancelling or postponing fundraisers and other events and activities. More than half of Massachusetts nonprofits that responded to a recent survey are anticipating “significant disruptions” to their operations due to the coronavirus crisis, according to the State House News Service, and that includes some of Hull’s nonprofit groups. As a result, many of them are expecting a decline in their annual revenues.
Adding to the Paragon Carousel’s dilemma is the forced closing of the popular attraction under Gov. Charlie Baker’s order that nonessential businesses be closed as of this past Tuesday for at least two weeks. The closure comes just as planning for the carousel’s traditional Easter weekend opening (Easter Sunday is April 12) kicks into high gear and could result in the loss of much-needed revenue that the Friends of the Paragon Carousel are not sure can be recouped.
The annual Easter weekend event attracts as many as 300 people and includes hiding 5,000 eggs for the egg hunt and many fun-filled carousel rides. “This starts bringing in the funds necessary for us to open for the season,” Schleiff explains. “It’s the harbinger of spring for Hull and other South Shore residents. People come from all over to have their photos taken with the Easter Bunny [with her husband, Bill, in full costume].”
The April Roman Chariot dedication and the annual Derby Night celebration in June, which is the Friends’ biggest fundraiser, have also been cancelled, and the lost Patriots Day business also factors in. “At least we can reschedule the dedication,” Schleiff says.
The projected lost revenue from the cancellation of the activities scheduled for those three days amounts to at least $25,000, according to Schleiff. “For a small nonprofit, that’s our lifeblood,” she says. “The question is whether we will be able to open at all this summer.”
While there was a good response to the annual appeal last winter, the proceeds were used for further restoration of the carousel in anticipation of additional revenue from events planned for this spring.
This would be the 92nd season of the carousel’s continued operation if all goes as hoped. There are currently only a limited number of carousels with chariots operating in the world, including in Australia, Paris, Canada, Colorado, and the one in Hull.
“We’re already in a precarious situation,” Schleiff says, “because the minimum wage went up; we have a mortgage; our utility costs range from $500 to $1,500 a month; our insurance costs doubled; and we needed to make an emergency repair in the creamery [the organization’s ice cream shop located in the clock tower]. Kids who have worked there before and are counting on returning this year are asking if they will have a job this summer.”
Nonetheless, Schleiff remains optimistic. “While everything is uncertain at this time, we’re hopeful that the carousel will reopen this year,” she says. “It’s a joy to the human spirit to see all the kids – including camp and day care groups, participants in our teen talent nights, and the 200 or so kids who participate in our Friday morning story-times – have such a nice time here.”
Donations of any size are welcome. Checks can be mailed to: Friends of the Paragon Carousel, P.O. Box 100, Hull, MA 02045. Donations can also be made online at paragoncarousel.com.