OLCOTT – The Olcott Beach Carousel Park’s charity gala, “Jazz Sea,” is planned from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday at the Olcott Yacht Club. It is the primary fundraiser for the park, which still offers rides for a quarter.
The lakeside park gives families a chance to ride refurbished rides from the 1940s and ’50s, as well as a 1928 Herschell-Spillman carousel in an authentic roundhouse.
The fundraiser will feature the music of the Sophisticats, dancing, tastings and raffles from the Niagara Wine Trail, light fare, 50/50 splits and an auction.
The auction boasts three large prizes this year.
The Sail Olcott Weekend Package includes two sailboat rides, gift certificates for the yacht club’s restaurant and bar, a day of charter fishing and a weekend in a lakefront cottage, all valued at $1,800. Likewise, a Four Season Service Package boasts yard cleanup for all four seasons, as well as landscaping gifts, also valued at $1,800.
And a Wine Country Weekend Package featuring a two-day cottage stay, limo rides, Niagara Wine Trail Passports and free merchandise, 18 holes of golf with carts, and breakfast, lunch and dinner gift certificates, is valued at $1,500. Wine and live auction items have been generously donated by local businesses.
The park, which is operated by volunteers, has relied on a Griggs-Lewis Foundation grant to hire local students to help supplement the volunteer ranks in operating the rides. The $10,000 grant has been stretched thin, with the hike in the minimum wage, as well as the park’s requirement to pay unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation, according to Rosemary Sansone, park president.
“We have ended up putting in nearly as much (another $10,000) toward the students’ salaries,” Sansone said. “We lost a lot of our volunteers this year, due to illness, and many just can’t physically do this anymore.
“Due to the cost of everything going up, we really rely on this fundraiser,” she added. “Along with the student salaries, we have unexpected costs throughout the year, like replacing the ride gate hinges that have broken. But we still want to keep our rides 25 cents so that they’re available to everybody.”
Event Chairwoman Gina Guido-Redden concurred.
“This is the only fundraiser for the park,” she said. “The park has always been staffed by volunteers – most my parents’ age, who helped found the park, and they have to take care of everything, from staffing rides to keeping the books. Where it used to cost $30,000 to operate the park, now it’s around $36,000, and this is the first year the park has had to have the majority of rides staffed by paid teenagers.”
Guido-Redden said she volunteers at the park as often as she can and is always thrilled to meet people who can’t believe the rides really only cost 25 cents.
“People come from all over to spend $5 to have a day with their family at the park by the lake,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
“My parents, (Bob and Sally Guido) were two of the founders,” Guido-Redden said. “They went out and raised the money to find the rides and have them refurbished, and my father painted murals, but then he was critically stricken right before it opened. He can’t help anymore. My mother still helps with the gardening there. Most of the volunteers are my parents’ age and have health issues. It’s tough.”
Sansone said the community has always rallied around the park.
“The whole community has been extremely generous in supporting the park – we have a lot of people to thank in this community,” she said.
Guido-Redden said they will have more room for guests at this year’s event and have a number of people offering their services to make it a success.
“Six wineries have donated wine, Donna Eick is providing the food at cost, Mr. Sansone’s band plays for free, and a professional photographer is donating his time for souvenir pictures that night,” Guido-Redden said.
“We also want to let everyone know that we will be accepting credit cards for the live auction this year,” she added.
Gala tickets are $20 and may be purchased at the carousel park ticket booth, from any member of the carousel organization, the Olcott Lions or Olcott Yacht Club, or by calling Guido-Redden at 778-5320 or Sansone at 778-7066.