For several months I have heard snippets of information about Shelby, Montana getting a carousel. I happen to think riding a carousel is something for all ages and I was excited.
It started out as one man’s dream to find a carousel, buy it, restore it, and build a building to house it. It sounded like quite a long-shot to accomplish all of that in a town the size of Shelby, pop. 3,326. Things like this take money and manpower, typically both of those in large quantities. Then I heard that Harry Benjamin was the fellow with this dream and I decided it just might happen.
Harry is no spring chick – he turned 85 on his last birthday – but the guy seems to have quite a knack for anything motorized, anything with moving parts, and it usually involves bringing joy to all who see it. I’ve watched a clock he made, a massive clock, using saw blades and it revolves to the point of being mesmerizing. It is on display in
the Marias Museum Annex in Shelby and I could watch that clock for a long time and never tire of it!
So, how did Harry accomplish getting this carousel? First, he searched and found an 80 year old carousel (younger than him) several states away. It was a 1936 carousel and it arrived in Shelby November 1, 2016.
A nonprofit was set up called The Carousel Rest Area of Shelby. The next steps were to start getting sponsors for the carousel because it was going to take a substantial amount of money. Then he worked
with the nearby prison (Crossroads Correctional Center) to get a crew of inmates to help with restoration work on the carousel animals. All of the aluminum animals were painted and finished with a clear coating and they are beautiful.
Harry, ever the mechanical genius, restored the motor unit and added a variable speed motor with modern bearings.
A 2,000 square foot building was constructed to house the carousel. The structural part of the building is done and plans include adding restrooms and a kitchen unit. Capacity is 100 people. The building is located right behind the local Pizza Hut restaurant which is on US
Hwy 2 as it travels through Shelby, and about a mile from an I-15 exit. Location, location, location. I can see success written all over this new carousel!
The carousel has 16 horses, 2 giraffes, 2 roosters, 2 benches and 1 monkey. I wish I knew how many bright red blinking light bulbs were in the center but I got confused just counting the animals!
So, did I ride? Of course!
When the carousel stopped for a new group of riders I climbed on one of the horses that was in it’s lowest position, and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. When the carousel stopped and my ride was over, my horse was in it’s highest position! I dismounted as gracefully as possible, which wasn’t graceful at all, and beamed with enjoyment. You know, there’s a kid in all of us just waiting to get out!
The Carousel Rest Area of Shelby is still accepting sponsorships. You can purchase a tile, sponsor a horse or pay to have your brand (it’s ranching country) on the side of the carousel.
Time to take the grandkids on a road trip!