After 109 years, the Hydro Free Fair survives on tradition and family

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HYDRO, OKLAHOMA -- It's not a Land Run but the organizers still shoot a pistol on the first evening of the Hydro Free Fair.

Some of the traditions here go way beyond the memories of living fair goers.

The earliest picture anyone can find of the Free Fair is at least a century old.

There might be a starter pistol in there somewhere, or, more likely, a regular pistol.

Janey Pease and her husband used to run a grocery store in Hydro.

She's still famous around town for giving out free candy.

These days, if she wants to catch up with old customers she can probably find them here.

"What are your first memories of this fair," asks a first time visitor?

"I can't even remember," she smiles back.

"It's that much a part of you," he queries?

"Yes. For my whole life, I think."

The Hydro Free Fair is a lot of things; a yearly reunion, a show, a carnival, and a kind of touchstone.

Most of the adults standing in this line for the Ferris Wheel probably rode it themselves.

The motor that runs it starts with a hand crank.

The same goes for this carousel, the oldest of its kind in Oklahoma, and still running with wood horses.

Most of the rides here date back at least 50 years.

Fair president Charlie Wieland says the knowledge of how to fix and maintain the passes down from generation to generation.

"Virtually everyone working here is a volunteer," he says. "And they do it for their kids and grand kids so they can come back."

The pace of change outside this fair is dizzying like the Green Machine.

But the kids who spun around on these rides keep coming back to give their kids the same experience.

The Hydro Free Fair is still forging first memories after multiple generations.

The Free Fair runs August 18-20. For more information go to