Volunteer helps keep Holyoke Merry-Go-Round moving

(Western Mass News photo)

The Holyoke Merry-Go-Round is celebrating 25 years at Heritage Park.

It's an attraction that originally took thousands of volunteers five years to keep in the Paper City.

"People don't realize what it takes to get the Merry-Go-Round to spin," said Kathie McDonough, operations manager with the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round.

The Holyoke Merry-Go-Round was brought to the city back in 1929 as a buy-one, get-one deal at Mountain Park.

When the theme park closed in the late 80's, residents rallied to keep the horses in the Paper City.

"It took five years worth of labor, over a thousand volunteers. The entire community came together. The school children raised $32,000 having bake sales, coin collections, anything to raise money," McDonough added.

McDonough told Western Mass News that everyone involved was thrilled to save the ride, including longtime volunteer Marlene Curran.

"Marlene was part of that grassroots effort and we would not be able to function without Marlene," McDonough said.

Curran added, "Just everything about this place is such fun. It's really great. It's the best. We're very lucky."

Back in 1984, Curran was teaching, but decided to take a pay cut and start a new career at Heritage Park.

In charge of cleaning up the grounds, Curran found time to dedicate to the Merry-Go-Round's new home.

"I was down here everyday and I couldn't contribute too much, but I did contribute. My big contribution was making the floors which are cement, color. They were going to be plain and I said to add color," Curran said.

Taking charge of volunteers, budgets, and events for more than 25 years.

"Oh, the best thing is when I first got here, I was certified to run the Merry-Go-Round," Curran explained.

Nowadays, Curran will spend anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a month volunteering.

"And sometimes, she shows up and wants to know, do I need help?" McDonough said.

Curran noted, "We are passionate about keeping it up and keeping it in great shape. People take care of it. They love it. They want to bring their grandchildren here and I love that."

Much like horses, Curran is calm, hard working, and instills confidence in everyone she encounters.

"Marlene has taught me when I believe in something and I know it's going to work, to go for it. I'm gonna start crying...to go for it and follow my gut and trust in myself and she's always there as one of my biggest cheerleaders," McDonough said.

It helps that she knows how to horse around.

"She has a sense of humor that would rival anyone else and keeps everything upbeat and that's priceless," McDonough added.

Curran said, "If you want to be happy and smiling, come here."

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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