Robin Meader, longtime manager of the Flying Horses Carousel, has spent the last three and a half decades trying not to hear the music.

“I’ve heard it so many times, I just blank it out until someone reminds me,” she said Sunday evening at the carousel, after being overwhelmed with a surprise retirement party to celebrate her 35 years with the Flying Horses.

She took one last ride Sunday as manager, and this time she heard the music.

A tearful moment during the surprise. — Jeanna Shepard

Ms. Meader’s career at the horses began in 1986, when she returned to the Island after a stint working as an FBI agent in Washington D.C. She had been homesick for the Island and her hometown of Oak Bluffs, but when her son first mentioned a job opening at the Flying Horses, she was incredulous.

“I said to him ‘I’m not working at the Flying Horses! What are you nuts?’ But by the end of the summer, I thought maybe this is where I need to be.”

The thread that connected her FBI career to her position at the carousel, she said, is an emphasis on problem solving.

“I’ve always loved puzzles,” she said by phone a few days after the ceremony.

Nevette Previd, executive director of the Vineyard Preservation Trust, which manages the Flying Horses. — Jeanna Shepard

Ms. Meader said she found no shortage of puzzles at the Flying Horses, from mechanical operations to cotton candy making. She recalled how, during one off-season day, she was the only employee in the building left to operate the carousel, the music and both ring arms all on her own.

“Whatever they needed me to do I did, and I wasn’t afraid to do them.”

One job she took particular pride in was popcorn making.

“People love our popcorn,” she said. “I have adults who still come in, not to ride the carousel but just to get the popcorn.”

Passing the torch — daughter Jamie Hiltz takes the reins. — Jeanna Shepard

Ms. Meader said that no one else, even if they use the same recipe, can match the taste of the Flying Horses popcorn.

“I don’t know if it’s something about the building” she wondered, “but a lot of care goes into that popcorn.”

The carousel is in Ms. Meader’s blood. Her mother worked at the Flying Horses with her and now, upon her retirement, her daughter Jamie Hiltz will take her place.

On Sunday, carousel staff and alumni joined with the Vineyard Preservation Trust board (who purchased the carousel in 1986) to honor Ms. Meader’s years of service. Young and old, they gathered around the horses and shouted “surprise!”

Over the years, Mrs. Meader said she embraced the ins and outs of the Flying Horses, learning every detail of how to run the operation.

“I loved working with the kids,” she added during a short break from receiving well wishes and hugs at the event. “It’s really all about them. I loved every minute of it.”

Nevette Previd, executive director of the Preservation Trust, spoke to the crowd about Ms. Meader’s legacy.

“After our renovation this summer, we are going to rename one of the chariots in honor of you,” she said, referring to an upcoming project to restore the horses and the base of the carousel. “We can rename it Flyin’ Robin, or Rockin’ Robin, whatever you like!”

Ms. Meader’s friend and co-,manager Lee Benjamin then brought Ms. Meader up to read the safety announcements one last time.

“Always hold onto a black pole,” Ms. Meader said. “And remember, your child is not a pole. If you lose your balance, they will go with you.”

That last line, said Mr. Benjamin, was a famous ad lib of Ms. Meader’s, yet another part of her lasting legacy.