State Fair icon and the labor of love behind it

Texas Star Ferris wheel
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Every year, millions of people visit the State Fair of Texas then go home and wait until next year.

But in 1985, a girl came here and never left. She’s the Texas Star Ferris wheel.

“Yeah, absolutely,” said Mary Talley, who has worked with the ride since it opened. “She’s a girl. We call her a girl. She’s beautiful.”

It’s no surprise, the Texas Star Ferris wheel is the most popular ride on the Midway. What is surprising is that she doesn’t belong to the fair. She’s owned by a single person, Mary Talley.

“It’s absolutely beautiful and breathtaking when you’re up here,” she said.

Mary’s dad was a legend in the amusement world when he brought the Texas Star here from Italy 32 years ago, and it’s just as popular now as it was then.

“It’s the best thing about the state fair,” said one rider. “It’s a piece of Texas history,” another rider said.

It’s those kinds of reactions that led Mary to take full ownership a few years ago, even though a big company offered big bucks for her family to sell it.

“I said, 'No, that’s not gonna happen,'” she said.

Over the years, Mary and her family have put smiles on millions of faces because when you’re in the Ferris wheel business, you understand what goes around comes around.

Which is why, to help those who have helped her, this year, Mary plans to donate 20 cents from every rider to Hurricane Harvey relief.

“Our plan is to raise tens of thousands of dollars to give back to the star fund to help our fellow Texans rebuild,” she said.

Creating smiles and helping Texans, Mary says there’s nothing else she’d rather do, which is why she’s happy to just keep spinning her wheel.

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