MISSOULA — Since the Missoula City Council first approved plans for A Carousel in Missoula in 1991, Theresa Cox has been along for the ride.
From opening day in 1995 to a global pandemic in 2020, Cox, the executive director of the carousel, has seen it all, but still admits that 2020 threw her for a loop.
“I don't think anybody's ever experienced a year like 2020,” said Cox.
Since its start, A Carousel for Missoula has only ever closed down for a couple of weeks at a time -- usually in January to paint the horses and a brief stint in August of 2019 for a broken cylinder.
“So to be closed for more than a year is just incomprehensible, Cox observed.
Cox told MTN News they had plans to celebrate the carousel’s 25th anniversary last year -- what they’d pictured as a big celebration with free rides, vendors and entertainment, was nothing more than a ring of empty ponies.
This was just one of many disappointing moments amid the pandemic.
“It really was difficult, especially when you mention Christmas Day...because we do free rides on Christmas, we do free rides on Thanksgiving, and that's a time that is a real tradition for a lot of families," said Cox.
Unlike most non-profits, A Carousel for Missoula has operational income during a normal year. Without that revenue, they’ve had to rely on donors.
“We've been really fortunate this past year, we've gotten some help from the federal government and some help from the state government, but it's really our local supporters who make a difference for the carousel,” said Cox.
Her team worried that the donations would slow down once the ponies stopped running, but the community pulled through.
“Everyone seems to understand that we are going to open again, and we need that support to be able to have the infrastructure to make that happen.”
According to Cox, A Carousel for Missoula has plans to reopen sometime this summer.
To support the carousel or one of the many non-profits participating in Missoula Gives, you can visit this site.
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