Carousel of Smiles hop to help Sir Hops-a-Lot

SANDPOINT – For a short time, an Easter Bunny took up residence among the Carousel of Smiles ponies in Sandpoint.

The bunny – known as Sir Hops-a-Lot – traveled to Sandpoint when its original painter Sue Baldwin of Republic, Washington suffered a health emergency. Baldwin reached out to Reno Hutchinson of Sandpoint Carousel to ask if the local paint crew could help. It only took a few seconds for Hutchinson to say yes.

Although it was a little scary at first, Hutchinson said they were honored to be asked to help. Hutchinson was determined to be true to the vision of Baldwin and sculptor Mike Thornton.

“To be honest, my very first reaction was honor,” Hutchinson said. “Honor that she felt we were able to take on her project. It just made my heart feel so full and happy to be a part of this project.”

Baldwin brought the bunny to Sandpoint in November. Hutchinson and the paint crew got a glimpse of the planned color scheme and what she envisioned for Sir Hops-a-Lot.

“Then she just stepped back, looked at him from the door and said, ‘I know you’re going to do a perfect job,’ and left him in our care,” Hutchinson said.

When the paint crew arrived, there was an initial moment of surprise that there was a rabbit peeking among the several dozen carousel horses in various stages of restoration. But there was also excitement, Hutchinson said.

“So when they arrived and saw the bunny for the first time, they were like, ‘Oh, there’s an intruder in the studio and he doesn’t look out of place among all the ponies’. “, she said. “But they too have such respect for Sue and what she has helped us learn. I think they had the same feeling of, ‘You know, wow, she’s giving us this project.'”

They immediately jumped in and wanted to get to work bringing Sir Hops-a-Lot to life, to make Thornton, Baldwin and the Kennewick carousel team proud, Hutchinson said.

The bunny arrived at the Sandpoint studio in early November and the team got to work. The team made sure to match the vision outlined by the Kennewick team – and they were determined to do a good job.

Applying the different coats of paint took time, Hutchinson said. Each time a different paint color is added, it must dry before the next color can be applied – especially when different colors are side by side – such as when the underseat blanket is carefully painted to look like a plaid or that texture is added to the ribbon.

“The shading, I think, turned out to be phenomenal,” Hutchinson said. “And the shading on the ribbon too, it brings it to life. It’s very three-dimensional.”

When Mike and the rest of the Kennewick team came in early April to pick up Sir Hops-a-Lot, they arrived earlier than expected, Hutchinson said. She had planned to stage the scene, with a blanket covering the addition of the Easter carousel so she could unveil it to the team.

“So I’m standing in front of the bunny, trying to cover it with my hands, saying, ‘You can’t see it yet,'” Hutchinson said. “When I pulled away from him, Mike looked at him and he started crying. ‘That’s exactly what I imagined.'”

This, said Hutchinson, made the entire Sandpoint paint crew beyond proud. According to Hutchinson, being asked to participate in the project means a lot and is part of the teamwork you see among carousel groups and organizations.

The Kennewick team, among many others, has helped the Carousel of Smiles effort in a number of ways. From leases to organizing – to painting tips and more, being able to give back to the Carousel of Dreams team was more than fitting, said Clay Hutchinson.

“It’s just about getting the carousel circle to actively work together so that one day we can have a carousel tour and have a map and all that kind of stuff,” he said.

Sir Hops-a-Lot will be available to ride at Kennewick Carousel until April 24 – a week after Easter. It will then be stored until next year, the Hutchinsons said.