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The Valley Merry-Go-Round opened once again Sunday afternoon

VALLEY — The 63rd running of the Christmas Merry Go Round began Sunday afternoon. The weather was gorgeous, and a big crowd was on hand to enjoy the first rides of the season. Ballard Party Rentals was there with miniature train rides and jumpers for the kids, and the Jackson Services tent offered a place to take a break.

“The weather really saved us today. It’s great,” said Valley Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Blount, who had T-shirts for sale next to the long line waiting for rides.

Manning the gate was Roger McDonald, a longtime fixture in recreation in the Valley.

“What I like best about this every year is the people,” he said. “Every year, you see a lot of the same ones coming back and you also see a lot of new people you’ve never seen before. That’s great, and I love it.”

McDonald has worked every Christmas Merry Go Round since 1958, the year he went to work for the West Point Manufacturing Company Community Recreation Department. He later worked with Valley Parks and Recreation when the City of Valley took over running the merry-go-round at Christmas.

McDonald is an avid runner and takes part in marathon racing. For the past few years, he’s been among the top finishers in his age group at the famed Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. McDonald said he recently went to a local shoe store looking for a new pair of running shoes. They had the right size but not the right color he was looking for.

“They were able to find the right size and color online,” he said. “They ordered them for me, and I’m picking them up this week. Shopping’s a whole lot different from what it used to be, and that’s a good thing.”

Anyone riding the merry-go-round in the next few days will have a chance to be the three millionth rider.

“We are getting close,” Blount said.

When that lucky person mounts a horse, the ride will be held up, they will be recognized and receive some prizes.

Saturday, Dec. 14 will be a special day at the merry go round. It will be Bicentennial Day in Alabama, and special events will take place to celebrate it. There will be a Sleigh the 5K race that morning along the CV Railroad Trail from the merry-go-round to Fairfax and back. There will be jumpers and miniature train rides for the kids along with make-your-own gingerbread houses. There will also be some local history tours along the trail.

From now until Dec. 19, when local schools are out for the holidays, the merry-go-round runs from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays, from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. It always closes for the season at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve.