Carousel animals generate $50,000 for Habitat project

By Lisa Roose-Church

Daily Press & Argus

The lions, tigers and horse sculptures that populated the streets for Brighton and Howell this summer now have a new home.

Each of the two dozen carousel animals were auctioned off Friday at Crystal Gardens (formerly Lake Pointe Manor) in Genoa Twp at the Habitat Ball Art and Animal Auction. The event, hosted by the Home Builders Association of Livingston County, Livingston County Association of Realtors and Habitat for Humanity, was a resounding success, organizers said.

The auction exceeded it’s $30,000 goal by raising some $50,000¬†for the “Women Build” project in which women will construct a house for Habitat for Humanity in 2005. The project coincides with local builder Julie Fielek’s 2005 term as the first female president of the Michigan Home Builders Association. The animals were sponsored by more than 30 businesses and organizations and painted by local artists.

“It’s a real honor when your peers elect you,” Fielek said.

Fielek was in attendance with her sister, Nancy Kern of Lansing, who painted the carousel horse titled “Patriot.” Fielek was armed with a check for $1,500 from a couple who was unable to attend the ball and dinner, but wanted to bid, she said.

A popular item on the kangaroo auction block was Washtenaw Dairy’s ice cream sundae bar party for up to 100 guests.

Susan Niepoth, a member of the Woman’s Council, dropped in a couple of tickets in hopes she would win the item for her daughter, a fourth grader at Southwest Elementary.

“I would give it to my daughter’s class,” Niepoth said. “Wouldn’t that be great?”

Also in attendance were some of the artists, none of whom wanted to venture a guess as to how much their art piece would bring in. One artist, Jeanne Giordani of Livingston County, said she was happy to have a piece — “Firefighter,” which was a painting of a Howell firefighter cadet — in the auction, but she was bidding on a painting titled “Summer Color.”

“I like the yellows and blues the artist use,” Giordani said. “It’s beautiful. You can tell it’s a wonderful artist.”

Just as popular were the lion and tiger statues that were up for auction.

Pinckney residents Ruth and Larry Tureff were eyeing the lion “Of Africa” by Michele Anscombe of Howell.

“My dream is to one day take a trip to Africa,” Ruth Tureff confessed.

Kevin Dowd, executive director of Livingston County Habitat for Humanity, said “Of Africa” was the top draw, going for $4,100 at auction.

Richard Ziminsky of Brighton said he didn’t care which of the lion statues he got as long as he got one.

“I’ll go with whatever I get,” he said before the event, noting that he plans to place his new purchase overlooking a lake at his home. :If I’m fortunate to get it, OK.”

Some people also combined their efforts to bid on an item. Jim Kuszmaul, a member of the First United Methodist Church Mission and Outreach Committee, said he came armed with a check written to Habitat for Humanity. Church members had all donated money to make one large bid on an animal a church member painted.

Former Brighton resident Jim Miller, now of chicago, served as auctioneer for the evening. Although he would not guess how much each item might bring, Miller did admit that he liked “The King” carousel lion, which was based on Elvis Presley and painted by Linden-area artist Diane Tasselmyer.

Miller said he believed expectations for the evening would be surpassed.

“I think we will all be delightfully surprised,” he said.

Miller, a seasoned auctioneer, said the Habitat auction is the first of it’s kind he’s done.

“It’s unique,” he noted. “There are fantastic pieces of art.’

Dowd said the community’s response to the effort was fantastic, too, from the artists to the organizers to the public. he said the event is something Habitat “definitely” would like to do again in the future.

“The one thing I heard from people is that we left all these animals on the streets of Howell and Brighton for two months, and they didn’t end up with a scratch on them,” Dowd said. “That speaks very well of this community.”