Carousel group needs online help

Staff photo by EMILY BARNES Sisters Michiya, 5, and Riyan Anderson, 3, of Washington, D.C., sit on a carousel horse as they are photographed with Santa and their siblings at The Carousel store in Waldorf. The event was a fundraiser for Southern Maryland Carousel Group, which carved the horse.

The Southern Maryland Carousel Group and La Plata town leaders are hoping that an online voting contest will win funds for a carousel. The contest, called the We Hear You America campaign, is sponsored by Reader’s Digest and allows voters to give their support for a specific town to receive funds for projects courtesy of the national magazine company. The town receiving the most votes will win $50,000, but additional prizes are available, including two $25,000 prizes, five $10,000 prizes and 10 $5,000 prizes, said Ashley Gabriel, a spokeswoman with G.S. Schwartz & Co., which is managing public relations for the campaign. Voting will last until March 1. La Plata had received more than 21,000 votes as of Wednesday afternoon. Members of the Southern Maryland Carousel Group are gathering support from people to vote for La Plata to receive funds in order to receive funding for a carousel project under way since 2004. Burkey Boggs, president of the Southern Maryland Carousel Group, said that Mayor Roy Hale and Councilwoman Paddy Mudd pitched the idea of competing for the contest’s prizes a couple of weeks ago. Since then, the carousel group has been gathering support from people to vote for the town to receive funds. Boggs said the contest is “another avenue” through which the group can obtain money for its wood-carved animals, the carousel and learning center. Wood-carvers have carved 46 horses for the carousel, and will carve four more horses before working on two handicap-accessible chariots, Boggs said. Each animal is valued between $6,000 and $10,000, according to the group’s website. The learning center, where people will be able to learn about wood carving and how to carve wood, is expected to cost $1.5 million, according to the group’s website. Boggs said that ideally, the carousel would be in La Plata, where the group currently is based. However, if the group received funds to place the carousel somewhere else in the county, then the carousel would go there, Boggs said. Boggs said that anything the group can obtain through the contest would help “tremendously.” Mudd said she heard about the site from a friend and notified Hale and the carousel group about the contest. Mudd said she encourages everyone to vote as many times as possible on the site. “What a wonderful way to celebrate the rebuilding of La Plata on the 10th anniversary of the tornado than with the joy, music and laughter that would come with our town’s own carousel,” Mudd said. The leader in the contest, Lake City, Iowa, had received more than 463,000 votes as of Wednesday afternoon. Although La Plata is not in the lead, it can look to last year’s grand-prize winner for proof that a town’s population doesn’t matter. Grand Marais, Mich., with a population of 300 people, won last year’s $40,000 prize with 1,281,724 votes, in order to fund the repair of a seawall. Grand Marais lies on Lake Superior’s southern shore. Dan Lagani, president of Reader’s Digest North America, said in a press release, “The We Hear You America campaign is about giving back to the people and towns that have meant so much to Reader’s Digest over the years. Cities, towns and villages across our country continue to face economic challenges. Reader’s Digest is bringing back We Hear You America to help these communities get the attention they deserve.“ The contest also allows voters to post messages and photos about their town to promote why their town should receive a prize from the contest. pwarner@somdnews.com <B><I>How to vote</B> </I>To vote for La Plata in the contest, go to http://wehearyouamerica.readersdigest.com and register on the website. Search for “La Plata, MD” on the website. People may vote as many times as they wish. To learn more about the Southern Maryland Carousel Group, go to www.somdcarousel.com. Visitors also can donate to the group, a 501c3 organization, by mailing a pledge card on the website to the Southern Maryland Carousel Group, P.O. Box 2335, La Plata, MD 20646.<B></B>