HYDRO, Okla. (KFOR) – The unveiling took five years.
That’s five years of free fairs in this town, where these horses and this carousel were silent, looking chipped and worn, very different from what organizers like Charlie Wieland can boast about now.
“It was absolutely worn out,” says Wieland of the carousel pre-restoration. “It looks great to me now. It looks wonderful.”
He even has a favorite pony.
“It’s the silver horse with the roach mane on the head.
“Every horse in unique,” he points out. “Usually it’s on bridle or somewhere on the blanket.”
This merry-go-round came off the assembly line in Tonawanda, N.Y., at least 100 years ago.
By 2017, the wood horses were rotted.
Charlie and other officials had a decision to make about restoring or replacing.
He says, “I’m lucky I get to hear all the stories about people who says their mother painted one horse, or their grandmother painted on one. It’s been very important.”
We were there in 2019 as the town said goodbye.
The ponies and machinery went off to Ohio for what turned out to be three years of work.
“The community elected to go ahead, not only to restore it, but bring it back to all its glory,” Wieland continues.
It turned out there were just too many people like Crystal Hamons who couldn’t say goodbye forever.
She grew up riding this merry-go-round.
She smiled for a picture at the age of five or six, and was able to find the very same horse in 2022.
“I’m sure every time we go around, we smile and look for mom,” she laughs.
Most of the town either rode or painted one of these animals at some point.
Ben Warner married into his job as ride operator 17 years ago.
The old carousel limped along with a belt drive and took three men pushing to get it spinning.
“The old machine had an engine that we had to hand start,” he recalls.
The replacement is like new, just in time for his daughter to make some fresh memories.
“She’ll be excited to ride it this year,” he says. “She’s 15.”
These old carousels have a lot of miles on them.
This 14 section, 36 horse model is one of 25 still operating in North America.
This year, for the first time in a half-decade the horses are running again, brighter, and shinier than ever.
The oldest wood carousel in the state at the oldest free fair in the state are back together just in time to make another generation happy.
The Hydro Free Fair started in 1907.
For more information on the schedule, go to hydrofair.org/schedule/index.html.