Owner reflects on years of Merry Go Round

Published 7:15 pm Thursday, January 3, 2019

VALLEY — Rich Tinsley has had a life-long love of carnivals, amusement rides and making people happy. He’s the owner of Tinsley’s Amusements, a carnival company based in High Hill, Missouri, not far from St. Louis. The company has been in business since 1964, providing amusement rides, games and food concessions to local and regional fairs, festival, church events and fundraisers throughout the states of Missouri and Illinois. Additionally, the c0mpany services events in other states.

For a number of years now, Tinsley’s has brought one of his favorite merry-go-rounds to Valley for the annual Christmas Merry-go-round. This event is not just a big deal for the people of Valley and the surrounding area, it’s also a big deal for Tinsley. He’s the low bidder when it’s put up for contract each year, and he’s very diligent in transporting one of his favorite merry-go-rounds (he owns 13 of them) to and from Valley for its annual December run. He leads a work crew along the interstates from St. Louis to Valley and closely supervises putting up the merry-go-round in late November. He returns in early January to take it down and take it back to Missouri.

When he talks about merry-go-rounds, Tinsley points to a family connection.

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“My father really loved them,” he said. “I’ve been in the amusement business since I was nine years old. My first job was to sell tickets for a circus. That was back in 1945.”

In a couple of weeks, he will be 83 years old. He admits to slowing down a bit over the years but is still dedicated to upholding the Tinsley’s Amusements name as of the best maintained traveling carnivals in the Midwest.

A number of merry-go-rounds formerly owned by Tinsley’s are now on display in museums.

His pride and joy is one that was manufactured by the Allen-Herschell Co. of North Tonawonda, New York. “They have been out of business for years, but that company is the granddaddy of all amusement rides. They made the best rides in the world. Our Allen-Herschell was made in 1958. We’ve had it in lots of malls, and we’ve had it for many years at the Minnesota State Fair.”

Tinsley rates the one that comes to Valley each year one of the company’s best merry-go-rounds.

“It’s right up there,” he said. “It’s one of the nicer ones we have.”

Tinsley loves to look for attractions when he’s traveling. On his recent trip to Valley, he spotted a wild animal park on I-65 in Alabama. He said he’d like to visit it sometime. “When I get the chance, I really want to see the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. I hear it’s really special,” he said.

Tinsley singles out the Shriners as an organization he admires.

“They do so much good work for crippled children,” he said.

It’s very satisfying for Tinsley to have brought joy to so many young-at-hearts with his amusement rides.

“It’s an honest living,” he said, “and I’ve enjoyed making people happy. I’m just at the age now where so many of my friends and loved ones are passing on. I’ve had a good life, and I’m so glad to still be active.”

This year’s Christmas Merry-go-round in Valley was hampered by some rainy weekends.

“It killed us to be closed on those weekends,” said Valley Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Blount.

Even so, more than 60,000 people took part in this continuing holiday tradition. This year’s number runs the cumulative total to 2,970,654 rides since the merry-go-round tradition started in 1956. In the first ten days of the 2019 run, that total should move past the 3 million mark.