“If you build it, they will come.” An old movie line from the classic, “Field of Dreams,” but one that Harry Benjamin truly believed when he first embarked on his final big life project, the Carousel Rest Area of Shelby. Harry knew he couldn’t build it alone, but he had faith. Faith in God, himself, his family, but most importantly, his community and others he had never even met.
Harry took on the project like he did all others, making detailed plans and full speed ahead, as he knew the value of time and that at his age there were no guarantees.
“I don’t have years to wait for this to get done,” Harry would say. “At my age there are no guarantees and I want to see it in my lifetime.”
Harry died on Monday, May 11, 2020. But thanks to his constant full speed ahead approach, his willingness to put up his own money to get things rolling, having faith he would be paid back through donations, and the generous support of many, he lived to see his dream of the carousel become a reality.
Harry and his wife, Jeane, celebrated 70 years of marriage at the carousel and he was able to see the amazement and joy on the faces of many, young and old, as they visited the carousel for the first time.
Nothing made Harry happier than seeing the delight on the faces of the children riding whatever animal they chose on his amazing carousel. The smiles and memories the carousel brought back to older generations visiting the facility was a close second.
Harry worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the facility. While receiving hospice care he was making sure things were being taken care of, lining out the siding project and talking to people who would keep the project alive. Harry knew his own time was running short but he was adamant in his belief that the carousel would be around for people to enjoy long after he was gone.
Siding the carousel building was the last main project Harry had been working on. The funding was there to purchase the materials and pay for half the labor costs. The siding is currently going up and will be finished soon. The remainder of what is owed is due upon completion. The insurance for the year is also due in June. The funds needed to cover both expenditures is approximately $5,000.
“We are really close,” said carousel board member and current acting manager Shawne Matteson. “The siding is going up and almost done. We need to pay the balance due for the labor and insurance for the year next month.”
Money for the utilities and maintenance is also a concern. The bills are paid for this month, but donations are needed to guarantee the facility can continue to operate over time.
Currently the Carousel Rest Area of Shelby is closed due to the COVID crisis. Matteson shared that as things progress and start opening back up the carousel will as well.
“Right now we are closed,” said Matteson. “As we adapt to the changes we will be working on having it available, within state guidelines, hopefully later this summer for private parties and events. We are trying to find safe ways for our communities to enjoy it.”
Keeping the carousel up and running for people in Shelby, Toole County, across the state and others traveling through was very important to Harry and he did all he could to ensure it would be here. A fantastic display of faith was shown when Harry forged ahead with the plan, putting up his money and countless hours of time to making his final dream a reality. He truly believed “if you build it, they will come.”
And he was right.
Since opening the carousel has seen countless visitors from all across the country and it has been the gathering place for many public and private events. Keeping the carousel up and running has now passed on to those Harry had faith in from the very beginning, all of us.
Donations to the Carousel Rest Area of Shelby can be made a number of ways.
The Carousel Rest Area of Shelby has a Facebook page that donations can be received through.
“We have found this to be really smooth,” said Matteson. “It’s a really easy way to give and Facebook takes no fees, 100 percent of the donation goes to the carousel and the donor receives an instant receipt in their email.”
Donations can also be mailed to the carousel at P.O. Box 283, Shelby, MT 59474 or dropped off or mailed to First State Bank in Shelby, just note in the memo what it is for.
Harry was huge when it came to giving to his community, providing his riding toys for events and taking part in every parade with multiple entries of his own. He donated his time to the community gardens and countless other events.
His final gift, the carousel, is not one to be taken lightly nor one that can continue on its own. Harry envisioned the carousel as being a gathering place for all, for generations to come, and he believed that even after he was gone his community and others would keep the carousel turning.
Let’s not let him down.