Mullen-Hall Considered For Carousel Of Light

The Carousel of Light.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Sherman - The Carousel of Light.

Carousel of Light, the nonprofit seeking a home for Falmouth resident Lance R. Shinkle’s handcarved carousel, was before the Falmouth School Committee Tuesday night.

Carousel of Light president James C. Bowen of West Falmouth asked the school committee for permission to place the carousel on the Mullen-Hall Elementary School grounds from the end of school in June through Labor Day weekend.

Mr. Bowen told the school committee that the Carousel of Light’s mission is to “bring joy and happiness” to the community. He said the Mullen-Hall schoolyard, with its popular playground and the library and downtown shops just across the street, would be a “great fit” for the carousel.

The carousel would operate 10 hours a day, and riders would be charged $3, he said. 

Also present at the meeting was Chelsea N. Maffei, daughter of Mr. Shinkle.

Ms. Maffei showed an aerial photograph of the schoolyard with two possible locations for the carousel: in the middle of the paved traffic circle where the buses pull around, and in the corner of the grassy playground that abuts Katharine Lee Bates Road and the bus entrance lane.

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The school committee discussed the two locations, bringing up several concerns. Was the traffic circle a fire lane? How would the grass on the playground be restored? Had the neighbors on Haddon Avenue been consulted? What sort of insurance would adequately shield the school in case of a lawsuit?

The school committee said it would need some time to consult with the Falmouth Fire Department and its own policy subcommittee before giving an answer. “This isn’t going to be an overnight decision,” chairman Judith Fenwick said.

Despite the cautious approach to the idea, the school committee expressed no opposition to locating the carousel at Mullen-Hall and even seemed warm to the idea.

School committee member Donna Mattison-Earls said she thought it was “a good idea, if it’s going to be safe.”

Member Laura L. Peterson called the carousel “a gem.”

And Ms. Fenwick expressed a desire to be collaborative. “I hope we can play well with others,” she said.

The Carousel of Light has also applied to selectmen to locate the carousel on Shore Street Extension, the tiny connector road next to the library lawn, which would need to be closed to traffic. But Mr. Bowen told the school committee that he is “not optimistic” about that request, and that Mullen-Hall is the group’s “first choice.”

Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn was present with Mr. Bowen and indicated her support for the Mullen-Hall location.

Mr. Bowen told the school committee that Mashpee Commons would like the carousel to locate near its shopping complex. The manager of Mashpee Commons  has “made us an offer we can’t refuse,” Mr. Bowen said, but the group remains committed to finding the carousel a home in Falmouth. “We don’t want to put it there,” he said of Mashpee Commons.

After the meeting, Mr. Bowen elaborated on the offer. He said Mashpee Commons has offered to give the Carousel of Light a piece of land as a permanent home. The Carousel of Light would only have to pay to build the pavilion around the carousel, he said. “They’re very pleasant people there; it’s nice to have that option,” Mr. Bowen said. “But our hearts are in Falmouth.”

Mr. Bowen told the school committee he is “very happy to donate a portion of the proceeds” to the school department in exchange for setting up shop there for the summer. He estimated that donating 10 cents per ride would yield $3,700 for the school.

The hope is to show the carousel off, have the town fall in love with it, and then work toward securing a permanent home in Falmouth, Mr. Bowen said.

The school committee will discuss what insurance it would require the carousel to carry at its next policy subcommittee meeting on April 3. In the meantime, superintendent Bonny L. Gifford said she would consult with town departments on the fire lane and other safety issues. Dr. Gifford said the school may be prepared to give a final answer by mid-April.

School committee member Samuel H. Patterson Jr. pointed out that school begins prior to Labor Day weekend, and so the carousel would need to move out before then.

The carousel has a long history. Mr. Shinkle, an artist and sign maker, began carving and painting it in 1988. He completed his work—it includes several dozen wooden horses, sea horses, mermaids, chariots and display panels, all with a nautical theme—in 1993. It was put on display at the Barnstable County Fair before being exhibited at Mashpee Commons and on Main Street in Hyannis.

Six years later Mr. Shinkle moved to California to take care of his ailing father, taking the carousel with him. A year after his father died in 2008 Mr. Shinkle returned to Falmouth, and the carousel eventually followed last spring.

The carousel is currently dismantled and being stored at Mr. Shinkle’s home on Davis Road.

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