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Come one, come all:
It’s carnival time at the county fair

Managing editor

It was hot Tuesday when Wagner’s Carnival was setting up rides and games on D Street in Hillsboro for the Marion County Fair.

“We’re used to it,” said Anthony Wagner, 19, the owner’s son. “We’re from Texas.”

And the whole Wagner family is used to it.

This is the fourth generation of carnival managers.

Jason Wagner, Anthony’s father, was the one in charge Tuesday as the rides were being set up.

This year’s carnival is bigger than ever with 17 rides and more than 30 attractions including interactive games.

The group began to arrive in Hillsboro on Monday after a stint in Beatrice, Neb. It’s one show after another this time of year, with the family doing 40 to 45 carnivals per year.

“It’s a family affair,” Jason Wagner said. “I’ve been doing this all of my life.”

It began with Wagner’s grandfather and then each generation has followed. Currently, Jason, his wife, and children are part of the carnival business.

Safety is the first priority, moving one town to the next.

“We’re in town to put smiles on people’s faces,” Wagner said, adding it would defeat their purpose if the rides were unsafe.

And there is quite an array of rides. There are the traditional rides — merry-go-round, zipper, and spinning rides. At this year’s fair, rides will include a bungee jump and rock-climbing wall.

“There’s an assortment,” Wagner said, for children, teens, and for parents who want to ride with their children.

It takes the professional workers a full day to set up the midway but it only takes about four hours to pack it up. Their next stop after the county fair is Belleville.

Living in trailers and traveling the country is something Anthony thoroughly enjoys.

Working with the family business all of his life, he was home-schooled. The carnival world is the only life he knows.

“I love it,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

The carnival opens tonight after the parade and will be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Tickets are on sale at local banks and convenience stores.

Last modified July 28, 2011

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