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Linda Holden and Renate Murusicz of Valier, were among the Valier area folks who couldn’t wait to try out the “new” carousel in Shelby during a ‘soft opening’ of the attraction nearly two years ago. Harry Benjamin, who worked so hard restoring the 80-year-old carousel, is now pleading with residents in the Golden Triangle area to donate funds to complete the project and help pay for its operation and maintenance in the future.

This summer has been slower than most when it comes to tourists and not only have the local merchants noticed and taken a hit, so has the Carousel Rest Area of Shelby.

“It’s been a slow summer,” said carousel founder, Harry Benjamin. “And not just at the carousel, I’ve heard other business owners saying they have noticed the same. Even when it comes to tourists, it’s been slower.”

A letter from Benjamin in a recent edition of the this newspaper was a cry for help, as the carousel is not in danger of closing, but donations are needed to continue operating as it has been and to finish up some needed projects, such as the siding on the building.

“The siding is going to cost $25,000 and we just don’t have that right now,” said Benjamin. “Instead of it getting done this year it is going to have to wait until next now.”

Benjamin shared the contractor out of Great Falls who will be doing the siding, when the funds are available, is coming to re-wrap the facility for the winter months. Benjamin is hoping that by next spring the money will be there to go forward with the siding.

“If everyone in the Golden Triangle area chipped in $100, we’d have it made,” smiled Benjamin. “I’m not just saying local residents, but folks all around the area and further. I’m hoping for some larger donations from corporations and companies expanding their business operations at the industrial park and those doing work on the different projects in the area as well.”

General maintenance and paying wages of those working at the carousel also depends on donations and even more importantly, people going to the carousel.

“It seems to be a mind set that the carousel is for special occasions,” said manager Kelly Hayes. “The carousel is not just for special events, it’s for every day. Buy a weekly or monthly pass and come spend some time.”

The carousel offers season passes, monthly passes and weekly passes and has cut prices on the cost to ride. Summer is winding down quickly and soon the carousel will be going back to its winter hours.

“We will be open for summer hours through Sept. 2, Labor Day,” said Hayes. “We will be closed Sept. 3, 4, 5 and 6 and then open for the first Saturday of winter hours on Sept. 7.”

The carousel provides a great source of entertainment not only during the cold Saturdays of winter, but is a cool place to play for the afternoon during the dog days of summer as well. Air conditioned and offering ice cream, it’s a great place to visit with the kids for a couple of hours to relax and cool off. With only a month of summer left, the carousel is organizing an end-of-summer blowout.

“We haven’t nailed down a date as of yet, but it will take place sometime during the week of Aug. 19,” said Hayes. “Mary Cake is providing us a cake and we are working on some carnival games and other things. Be watching next week’s issue for an exact date.”

A Wednesday afternoon out with the kids or needing somewhere big enough to host a party, the carousel is available. Parties can be scheduled throughout the winter months by appointment, with no appointment necessary for Saturdays. 

“Book your Christmas parties early,” Benjamin advised. “We already have one booked and we’d love to do more.”

Cutting prices, offering passes and organizing fundraising events (be watching for more throughout the winter months) are all efforts being put forth by the carousel to keep the doors open. While there’s not an immediate threat of having to close, Benjamin wants to avoid that even becoming a possibility.

“Too many people and too much has been invested to quit now,” he concluded with a smile.

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