Mac’s Carnival’s multi-generational operation. Luke McWhorter - 4th generation; James McWhorter - 2nd generation; and Lon and Pete McWhorter - 3rd generation.

Mac’s Carnival and Attractions is making a return to the centennial Sully County Fair after an absence of several decades.

“We used to do the fair in Onida and then go on to Gettysburg because they were back to back,” said Lon McWhorter of the amusement’s previous appearances here. A person of his word, Lon once turned down a lucrative offer to bring his carnival elsewhere so that he could fulfill his commitment here.

In order to return, they are splitting their carnival, and appearing here as an offshoot of their route to the Cherry County Fair in Nebraska.

“We’re bringing six rides, a food stand, and possibly some games,” said Lon. He says that the rides haven’t been determined, but there will be three from among Tilt-a-Whirl, Ferris Wheel, Sizzler, Tornado, Roundup, Paratrooper, Freestyle, and Rock O Plane; and three from among a tractor ride, a quad-runner ride, a car ride, airplane ride, carousel, Dragon Wagon roller coaster, and a super slide.

The six rides Mac’s Carnival and Attractions is bringing to the centennial Sully County Fair will be set up on the Midway on Friday from 5:00-10:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 1:00-10:00 p.m.

Lon McWhorter is the 3rd generation of his family to operate the Mac’s Carnival and Attractions entertainment venue which his grandparents started in 1929.

“My grandfather retired from auto racing and thrill shows, something he had done since 1911,” said Lon. “He and grandma started out with a three minute photo booth. He was the first to be able to develop film in three minutes, and he was really good at it.”

The attraction added their first rides in 1937, and added more rides every year as they continued to grow. In 1973, Lon’s grandparents got out of the rides business and just operated concessions – until Lon picked it back up in 1986.

“My brother and I restored an old roller coaster and got back into the ride business,” said Lon, who adds he took up the project because “it was there, and it had a cool engine.”

After confirming that the roller coaster worked, they took their ride on the road, teaming up with a carnival that had gotten its start with their grandpa.

“Ever since I was a little kid growing up on the west side of Huron, I wanted to be back in the ride business,” said Lon.

Mac’s Carnival and Attractions operates in Louisiana, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and even into North Dakota. “We have a second home in Louisiana.” Their base of operation is out of Woonsocket, and their route takes them to Louisiana for Mardi Gras. “Our actual route starts the first week of March in Louisiana, and we’re in South Dakota by the first week of June.”

The Carnival books eleven dates in South Dakota and their route takes them back and forth between South Dakota and Nebraska.

Carnival operators have formed a tightknit community, and Lon speaks with admiration of fellow operators the Kleins.

“My Tilt-a-Whirl, which I bought from the Kleins, has been on the road since 1953,” said Lon. “They were amazing people, because they never had kids. When that carnival sold out, Jenny gave all her money back to orphanages. The payments I made on the Tilt a Whirl, she used to pay for the operation of a child in need. She would fly kids to England or Russia or wherever to get the best surgeon. All the money went to the kids. She made her living from kids and gave it all back.”

“I hope to be able to do something like that someday,” Lon concluded.

The six rides Mac’s Carnival and Attractions is bringing to the centennial Sully County Fair will be set up on the Midway on Friday from 5:00-10:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 1:00-10:00 p.m.