Oklahoma’s longest running free fair parts ways with its oldest ride for the first season in 100 years

Great State
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HYDRO, Okla. — As horses go, these are pretty quiet. They look wild but they only run in circles.

On a Thursday morning, these screwdriver and wrench cowboys went to work rounding up the entire herd, every horse still attached to Oklahoma’s oldest working carousel.

“Most of these are 100 to 120-years-old,” says carousel expert Todd Goings.

This merry-go-round and the Hydro Free Fair go back as far as anyone can remember.

The machine comes from the Calliope golden age. Cast iron pieces are stamped with a century-old date.

“These are part of the rounding boards, and they’re dated 1919,” says Hydro Free Fair board member Charlie Wieland.

Todd Goings is the head wrangler on this crew. He works for a company in Ohio that specializes in restoring old carousels.

“This particular carousel is a nice little machine,” he says. “It’s been in the community for a long time. There are about 150 antique carousels left in the U.S.”

As this machine was struggling through the last few seasons of riders, Hydro Fair organizers got in touch with the Carvings and Carousels Company to gather up all the pieces for its first big overhaul.

“Reinstall new wood where necessary, re-carve legs to the original factory style, tails, anything necessary,” says Goings.

If you grew up in Hydro, one of these animals might have represented the first time you ever stepped in a saddle.

Current Chamber of Commerce President Chrystal Hammond remembers.

“All I can remember is missing one fair in my life,” she chuckles.

A year from now, these horses and the machinery that helps them run will make a return to home pastures.

They’ll ride again just in time for kids like Stella Deaton and her little brother to form their own memories.

“I know,” she says. “Next year will be better because my baby brother named River, he’ll be 1-year-old and he can ride it, so that will be good.”

The 2019 Hydro Free Fair, Oklahoma’s oldest, runs August 15 -17.

‘Is This a Great State or What?’ is sponsored by WEOKIE.

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