The Moon Rocket — a roller coaster that takes riders upside down on a circular track — is a ride that often elicits squeals of excitement and, sometimes, screams of fear from daredevils brave enough to strap themselves into the car. Those types of reactions are just part of the reason Larry Hert loves his job with James H. Drew Exposition, the company responsible for the carnival that entertains thousands at the Appalachian Fair, which kicked off another run Monday.
Hert said it best: “When you hear them scream, you know they’re having fun.”
Since joining Drew Exposition about seven years ago, Hert has operated just about every ride available at the fair, but the Moon Rocket has remained his favorite as he’s transitioned from ride operator to ride foreman.
“I like making the people happy. It’s nice when they come and ride. They’re having a good time, and you know you did that for them,” he said. “It kind of feels like you’re gonna fall out, and everybody likes that.”
After stumbling across the carnival while looking for a job in Indiana seven years ago, Hert joined the ranks of Drew Exposition. As someone who enjoys the day-in-day-out routine of operating rides and traveling on the road nine months out of the year with the carnival, he can’t imagine working anywhere else.
“I wouldn’t work nowhere else. I love it. You work seven days a week, but it’s all your friends that you work with. We all work together, we all help each other out here. It’s almost like a family,” he said.
The fair season typically begins in March in Macon, Ga., and travels around the country — stopping in North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia and Tennessee along the way — until it ends in mid-November in Augusta, Ga.
But being a ride operator is more than just dealing with heavy machinery throughout the day, Hert said. Being a “people person” is part of the job description, too.
“You just gotta have a people-type personality. It’s really fun. You have different obstacles every time you tear down and set up,” he said.
The Appalachian Fair is one of the bigger fairs Drew Exposition works with, and Hert said it’s one he always enjoys working.
“The people here are always nice. They’re always friendly. It’s one of our bigger spots. We get a really good turnout pretty much every time we’re here. We like being here and we like putting on a show for people,” he said.
The fair continues all week and ends Saturday. All seating for events at the Appalachian Arena and the Museum Stage are free with paid gate admission, which costs $8 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-11 and children ages 5 and under get in free with an adult. Special promotions will be offered throughout the week, including $4 admission for seniors ages 60 and over on Thursday.
For more information about the Appalachian Fair, visit www.appalachianfair.com or call 477-3211.