'A once in a lifetime opportunity to get to carve for a carousel'

'A once in a lifetime opportunity to get to carve for a carousel'

ALBANY, Ore. - Wood shavings gather at the feet of Cliff Page as he carves a creation he calls "Merv."

"Making a Griffin, they call it," he said. "Front end of it is an eagle, and the rest of it is a lion."

This is the fourth creature Page has carved for the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum.

In a non-descript beige building downtown near the river, Page and 300 other volunteers and artists work to create a menageries of 52 characters and restore a century old carousel base.

"People love carousels," said Wendy Kirbey, the president of the Albany Carousel board. "From 9 months to 90, you know, they love carousels."

The project is the ride of a lifetime for Kirbey. She got the idea in 2002.

The foundation for the new carousel is a 1909 original being pieced back together like a puzzle.

"We have pictures of them unloading it, saying 'we don't know what this is, but we're really glad to have it,'" she said of the parts.

Donations and grants are paying the bills now, and a $5 million capital campaign is in progress to raise money for a new building big enough to hold the carousel.

When do they plan to be done?

"Boy that's the question they ask me all the time," Kirbey said.

The goal is to break ground 2014 on the new building and have the carousel open by 2015. "I think this will be really healthy for the downtown," she said.

Meanwhile, 2,000 visitors per month pay a visit to the workshop at 503 1st Ave. W, where the community reaches for a brass ring by carving and painting life into a wheel of wonder.

"The visitors come in and they're just awed and that's great. Makes you feel good," Page said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to carve for a carousel anymore."