The Carousel of Light and its hand-carved horses that Lance Shinkle created might finally have a permanent home. The Falmouth School Committee last month agreed to transfer control of a small part of the Mullen-Hall School grounds to the Falmouth Select Board, which will allow the carousel committee to install the carousel permanently under a protective enclosure.
It has been a long time coming. Mr. Shinkle started carving the horses for the carousel in the late 1980s. According to Enterprise archives he originally planned to build a traveling carousel, but his plans changed by 1993. Mr. Shinkle decided to find a permanent spot for the carousel where he could operate it and demonstrate the art of carving carousel animals. He also hoped to use it to raise funds for cancer research.
Falmouth quickly got behind the idea. The chamber of commerce endorsed it. The Falmouth Village Association wrote Mr. Shinkle of its desire to have the carousel in the center of town and offered to help raise funds.
A committee was formed. Friends of the Carousel of Lights included some names still associated with the project: Troy Clarkson, Rich Sherman and Jim Bowen.
It all looked promising; the committee signed an agreement with Mr. Shinkle and Elizabeth and Maxwell Millard, who owned property behind what is today Añejo, and offered to lease it to the committee for a dollar a year.
Then things began to unravel. The committee’s agreement with Mr. Shinkle expired, and it started to look into buying a different carousel. Mr. Shinkle set his carousel up in Mashpee Commons.
Years went by, and Mr. Shinkle moved to California to care for his father. When he returned the following year, life for the carousel began again. Mr. Shinkle donated the carousel to the newly formed Carousel of Light Inc., which formed as a nonprofit.
And in 2013 the organization received permission for the schools to operate the carousel during the summer on the grounds of the Mullen-Hall school. The first year, it attracted some 20,000 riders.
A permanent home was and is still needed. It is expensive to take down and store the carousel every winter. There is also too much wear and tear, especially on the turning mechanism, which is a 1947 Herschell.
Town Meeting will be wise to approve the new location. It takes little from the school grounds, as it is tucked away in a far corner. Yet it will be prominent enough to be seen and used by residents and summer visitors.
“Unique” is very often a misused word, but it applies unqualified to the Carousel of Light. There are several other hand-carved carousels in the country, but none is like any other. Except, of course, for the happiness they give young riders. And as Rich Sherman said nearly 30 years ago, the rides also bring out the children in adults.