LIFE ON THE CAROUSEL: Bill Freeman operates the Merry-Go-Round at the 2014 Jefferson County 4-H Fair on Monday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
LIFE ON THE CAROUSEL: Bill Freeman operates the Merry-Go-Round at the 2014 Jefferson County 4-H Fair on Monday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
The bright lights of the Midway flickered on for the first time Monday night at the Jefferson County 4-H Fair. And with the lights came the well-known sights and sounds of any fair. The rides.

Bill Freeman operates the carousel, one of the simplest - and most popular - rides at the fair.

For many children, Freeman said, the carousel is an introduction to the other rides. It's the first thing they'll try when they're big enough to climb onto one of the horses.

Sometimes, the first ride doesn't go so well.

"They'll start crying and saying 'Let me off, let me off.'"

But more often than not, Freeman said, the experience is a joyful one.

"Oh man, the smiles on the kids' faces, it's awesome," Freeman said.

It's not only the children that are fun to watch. Freeman said he's had older people ride on the carousel, and when the horse moves and the music starts to play, their faces light up too.

"Just like a kid," he said.

This is Freeman's first year with Poor Jack, the company that operates the rides. But Freeman has worked on fair and carnival rides before.

He ran his first carousel when he was 15 years old.

Earlier this year, he was in need of work, so he got back into carnival rides. It was just a coincidence that he ended up on the same ride where he got his start.

"This was the only place that was hiring, so I came here," he said.

The first time he started putting up his ride, he said he fell back into his old rhythm.

It takes Freeman about two-and-a-half hours to tear down or put up his ride when it's time to move. When the fair wraps up Saturday, he and the rest of the ride operators will move onto the next fair in Franklin.

"We tear down that day and move on to the next town and the rides start that night," he said. "No sleep. No nothing."

Freeman says he doesn't mind the pace, or coming back to run the carousel.

"To me, it's an awesome experience," Freeman said.

"I'll probably be back here next year. And probably many more years after that."