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Sun shines anew on spiffed-up carousel and its fans

More than 1,500 enjoy landmark’s reopening

Liberty Rogers, 4, with her father Darby Rogers of Madison, Conn., was among the fans riding the Paragon Carousel on opening day. Liberty Rogers, 4, with her father Darby Rogers of Madison, Conn., was among the fans riding the Paragon Carousel on opening day. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Johanna Seltz
Globe Correspondent / April 11, 2010

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HULL — The sun was shining and, for the first time in years, its beams poured into the Paragon Carousel as more than 1,500 people enjoyed the local landmark’s 83rd opening weekend.

The sunlight in the carousel building shone through 48 multipaned, newly refurbished windows — paid for by a $100,000 grant from the “Partners for Preservation’’ online contest. The money also went toward 24 new French doors, which later this month will replace the green garage doors that now circle the building.

Many of the carousel’s fans in last weekend’s crowd said they had voted in the contest, sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation last spring. Twenty-five historic places in Massachusetts competed for the grand prize; the Paragon Carousel won in May with 370,743 of the total 2.47 million votes cast.

“People tell us all the time that they voted’’ for the carousel, said its general manager, Susan Wentworth. A Plymouth resident, Wentworth joined the carousel operation a month ago after seven years managing Edaville Railroad in Carver.

The Paragon “is obviously such a part of the community,’’ she said. “We had a cleanup day last month, and 50 people were here doing the dirtiest, nastiest jobs with smiles on their faces.’’

Sarah Das and her family — husband Andy Kurtz, 3-year-old Lizzie, and 8-month-old Rachel — were smiling after taking their first ride of the season last Saturday.

“We like to come the first day; we’ve been waiting all winter,’’ said Sarah Das. “This was Rachel’s first time on the carousel. She loved it. Actually, last summer I came on before she was born, so she got to ride that way.’’

Nine-month-old Daniel Freedman of Hanover took his first ride with 3-year-old brother Ben and parents Alan and Jill. Grandparents Bernie and Helen Freedman were also present, visiting from Florida.

“I used to come here as a kid,’’ said Bernie Freedman, 76. “It looks the same, except there used to be all the other amusement park rides, like the roller coaster.’’

Paragon Park closed in 1984 and was dismantled by its new owner to make way for condominiums. Three investors bought the 1928 carousel — with its 66 hand-carved horses, two Roman chariots, and Wurlitzer organ — and moved it half a block to its current location across from Nantasket Beach.

Ten years later, the carousel went on the market again and The Friends of Paragon Park formed to save it.

Since then, the Friends have kept the carousel going and worked to return it to its original grandeur. They’ve restored the organ and repainted and repaired one chariot and about a third of the horses. And they’ve worked hard to raise money to pay down the $300,000-plus mortgage, said board member Patricia Abbate.

“This was the first year in years that we went into the closed season with enough money to pay our mortgage over the winter,’’ she said.

There also was enough money to hire Wentworth to manage the carousel; volunteers had been doing the job, Abbate said.

On April 30 from 7 to 10 p.m., the Friends will hold a Derby Day, a fund-raiser for adults that will feature mint juleps, a Derby hat-decorating contest, and carousel horse “racing.’’ In the race itself, the horse that lands at a specified spot when the carousel stops revolving is the winner.

Individuals or groups can sponsor a carousel horse for $100, Abbate said.

More theme nights are planned, as well as a “dog days of summer’’ event with a “pooch parade’’ around the carousel, she said.

“And we’re looking forward to the new ferry service, which will let people off right at our back door,’’ she said. The service from Boston to Steamboat Wharf is scheduled to start June 15 and end after Labor Day.

Wentworth said she is looking forward to bringing school groups to the carousel’s workshop, where artisan James Hardison restores the carousel horses. She’s also eager to make up for lost time riding the horses. Although she grew up in nearby Quincy, she didn’t come to the carousel as a child. “I don’t know how I missed it,’’ she said.

Her 7-month-old niece, Julia Sullivan of Weymouth, already had her first ride, on opening day, and her red hair sported a pink bow for the occasion.

“She’ll grow up on the carousel,’’ said Wentworth, whose son took tickets from riders. “It’s a great family place to be.’’

The Paragon Carousel will be open weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. until June 19, and daily until 10 p.m. through the summer. Tickets are $2.25 for a single ride or $20 for 10 rides.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seelenfam@verizon.net.

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