Todd Merriam walked the grounds of the Redwood County Fair Tuesday afternoon keeping an eye on the activity as a group of his employees put together one of the most popular attractions of the fair – the midway.
The fourth generation in his family to work in the carnival atmosphere is not sure of the full history of Merriam’s Midway, but he knows it started with his great-grandfather.
The first rides the family had were made by his great-grandfather, and it was his grandfather who first took the rides out to events in the Ogden, Iowa area.
“They did a lot of local stuff at first,” said Todd, whose father Dale took over the business and then handed operation over to the fourth generation.
Todd said he thought the first ride the Merriam family bought was a Tilt-a-Whirl, and over the years the number of rides has grown.
Today, he said, Merriam’s Midway has 20 rides it takes to different county fairs around the country.
“I live in Texas,” said Todd. “So that is where we are out of now.”
The majority of the shows Merriam’s Midway does each year are in Texas, but when the weather gets too hot they like to make their way north to places like Minnesota. This weekend the midway has split in two, with rides in Redwood County and Scott County.
Merriam’s Midway has been in Redwood County for a number of years, and Todd said he has discovered the people here seem to like the faster, more extreme rides.
This year he brought a new ride called the Tornado.
Of course, he also brought in the carousel, which he said is the signature piece of the midway, as well as about seven or eight other rides.
“We’re on the road about eight months of the year,” said Todd. “I tell people my house is on wheels.”
Todd, who grew up in the midway business, said he likes what he does, adding “it’s in my blood.”
Todd said the carnival business is a lot like farming.
“It’s not an easy business to get into, and it is handed down from generation to generation,” he explained.
While the news may make a big deal of carnival accidents, Todd said technology has really advanced in making rides safer.
“What we want to do is create a festive atmosphere where people can have fun and be safe,” he said. “I enjoy coming into communities, because when we are coming it is for some kind of festive occasion. I like to help people have fun.”