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Fair rides bring back fond memories

For many, a county fair provides a certain magical experience that has no age limits.

Ride operator Pam Starcher has the honor of working one of the most popular rides in fair history … the merry-go-round.

“The best part of doing this is seeing all the happy little faces,” she said Wednesday at the Chautauqua County Fair in Dunkirk. “They make it fun. It is all about the kids. They love the mirrors. They love to watch themselves.”

Starcher recalls her own childhood when the merry-go-round only had horses, but now they have tigers, elephants, and even dragons.

“Everyone likes the dragon,” she said. “Usually they all go to that one first.”

Anyone can ride on the merry-go-round.

“I had a couple in their 70s who asked if they were too old to be on the ride,” Starcher said. “They hadn’t been on the ride in about 20 years. It was really cute to watch.”

The merry-go-round is most likely the first ride these parents and grandparents had been on, Starcher added.

“This ride goes on all day until closing,” she said. “Some rides get an hour break, but not this one. This is the busy one. They will stand in the pouring rain. The rain doesn’t stop the merry-go-round.”

The rain did however stop the Ferris wheel; due to safety reasons a Ferris wheel can not operate. Once the sun started shining again, the ride was in full operation.

Ride operator Steve Cusaman said the line is typically a mile long for this fair favorite.

“People of all ages love the Ferris wheel and the merry-go-round,” he said.

“I am good at what I do,” Cusaman said about operating the Ferris wheel. “It takes a specific type of person to run it right. You have to maintain the balance.”

During the derby night Tuesday, Cusaman said it was packed.

“I was running six to eight seats at a time,” he said. “We were really busy after the derby.”

Liam McCausland, 6, and his cousin Ashton Deakin, 14, made it their goal to ride all the rides Wednesday afternoon, and the Ferris wheel was one of the last.

“I liked it a lot,” McCausland said. “It didn’t terrify me at all.”

Ride operator Brian Robison loves working the Wild Thing Bungee.

“We set it up by weight,” he said. “This is a popular ride. When I first started working here two years ago I tried it out.”

Robison added girls and guys enjoy the ride.

“All kids seem to love it,” he said. “As long as kids are happy I am happy. I want the kids to enjoy themselves. If I see the kids happy, it makes me feel good.”