Butch Butler Service Information and Biography



Yesterday, Carnival Magazine sadly learned that Butch Butler of Butler Amusements passed away. The following message was released by Butler Amusements on Wednesday evening:

It is with heavy hearts that we regret to inform you of the passing of Butler Amusements, Inc. CEO and President Earl “Butch” Butler.

Butch passed peacefully at the age of 69 in Santa Clara, California early this morning surrounded by family and friends from multiple health complications.

On January 2, 2012 there will be a viewing at the Oak Hills Funeral Home from Noon to 5 p.m. followed by a Rosary at 7 p.m.

Address of Oak Hills Funeral Home:

300 Curtner Ave. San Jose, CA 95214

On January 3, 2012 Earl “Butch” Butler’s funeral will be held at St. Christopher’s Church at 1 p.m.

Address of St. Christopher’s Church 1576 Curtner Ave. San Jose, CA 95125

Reception will follow the funeral, additional details will be available at that time

The family asks, that in lieu of flowers, that instead a donation be made to one of the following Association’s Scholarship Fund (checks should be made payable to the respective organization fund)

Pacific Coast Showmen’s Association Scholarship Fund Mailing address: Pacific Coast Showmen’s Association Scholarship Fun c/o Tony Guadagno 1242 Valley View Street #103 Garden Grove, CA 92845


Showfolks of America Scholarship Fund

Mailing address: Showfolks of America Fund c/o Sam Johnston, P.O. Box 294079, Sacramento, CA 95829


The following history of Butch's life was also given to us from Butler Amusements and will also appear in our February issue:

Butch was born in 1942 in Austin, Minnesota. Beginning in 1955 his parents, George “Bud” Butler and his wife Evelyn started operating a game concession on weekends at various festivals. When Butch was just thirteen, he and his best friend, Tom Shobaken would help his father set up and operate his game concessions on weekends at various festivals sparking his interest in the carnival industry. Within a couple of years Bud and Evelyn Butler owned two additional game concession, a hi-striker and a basketball game. In 1959 Bud Butler purchased is first ride, an umbrella ride that was far superior than any he had seen before. Bud and Evelyn hooked up their new ride to their Cadillac and moved to California in 1960. Butch remained in Austin, working as a butcher at his family’s grocery store “Bud & Bob’s” while simultaneously attending Austin Community College where he continued his passion for basketball. During the summers, he continued to operate food and game concessions with Merriam’s Midway along with several other carnivals in the Midwest.

In 1967, married with two daughters (Tami, 5 and Kelley, 3), Butch and his wife Mary Lou moved west to join his parents in California. One year later Bud called Butch to see if he wanted to purchase yet another ride, a Swinging Gym. They booked the ride to play the Nebraska State Fair and the Tulsa State Fair before reaching the golden state. With the success of his new ride and its profitability Butch decided to sell his home and purchase a third ride, a Tilt-A-Whirl. From 1968-1969 the Butler’s joined Bobby Cohn’s West Coast Shows. They played many spots such as: Great Falls, Montana, Salem, Oregon, California State Fair and the Los Angeles County Fair, both in California. This successful venture made it possible for the Butler’s to purchase even more rides.

Butch and Mary Lou welcomed two more daughters, Jill and Kris. His only son, Sean Patrick Butler-Murphy was born March 15, 1990. On January 10, 1970 Butler Amusements, Inc. played their debut spot in Mountain View, California. That winter Butler Amusements contracted their very first fair, The Redwood Empire Fair in Ukiah, CA.The company still provides the carnival for this fair today. At that time each ride had its own ticket box. Butch’s mother, Evelyn is remembered saying “There’s no way we can handle this, it’s way too big.” Little did she know that the Redwood Empire Fair was just the beginning.

Within the next two years, Butler Amusements had signed contracts with 12 more fairs, and by 1975, the company was providing the carnival midway at 23 California fairs.

In 1989, Butler Amusements, which had been primarily a California carnival, took a major step by signing a multiple-year contract with the prestigious Portland Rose Festival in Oregon. Other out of state fairs soon became available to the company almost immediately. Within two years the route included the Western Idaho Fair, the Eastern Idaho State Fair , Central Washington State Fair , Nevada State Fair and Jackson County Fair in Oregon. In 1995, the Clark County Fair, Ridgefield, Washington was added and, in 1996, the Evergreen State Fair, Monroe, Washington.

The winter route was strengthened in 1997 with the addition of the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio, California. Six more new fairs followed in 1998.The route expansion continued in 1999 with the addition of the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, California the La Paz County Fair in Parker, Arizona and the Colorado River Country Fair in Blythe, California. The 2000 season saw the addition of the California Mid - Winter Fair in Imperial, California and the Maricopa County Fair in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2001, the Cloverdale Citrus in Cloverdale, California, the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fair in Bishop, California and the Southern California Fair, Perris, California were added. The route continued to grow from 2003 to 2008 with the signing of seven additional Fairs.

Exciting news came in 2009 with the addition of our largest fair with the signing of a ten year contract at the California Exposition and State Fair. We also added again to our schedule the Curry County Fair in Gold Beach, Oregon. Two major western United States festivals also became part of our route, the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival, Garden Grove, California and the Chandler Ostrich Festival in Chandler Arizona.

In 2010, we were awarded a new multi-year contract for the San Mateo County fair in San Mateo, California. 2011 saw two more fairs added to our route. These included the Big Fresno Fair, Fresno, California and the Washington County Fair, Hillsboro, Oregon.

Today Butler Amusements, Inc. is the largest carnival company in the Western United States, providing the carnival for over 125 different events annually including 34 state and county fairs. This includes over 140 amusement rides that operate in seven different states including California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and Texas. The corporate headquarters is located in Beaverton, Oregon, the booking and marketing office is in Fairfield, California and the winter quarters and maintenance facility is located in Santa Nella, California Customer safety and satisfaction have always been the primary factors considered when acquiring new rides and attractions. This has helped us provide the safest possible fun for Butler customers and be able to feature some new attractions each year.

Butler Amusements is a family-owned and operated company. Building its carnival over many years into one of the largest in the United States was accomplished through the hard, dedicated work of the family and its employees. The fourth generation of Butlers is now actively involved in many facets of company operation from unit management to food concessions, to office operation and finance, to show transportation.

Butch was unique in his vision creating the “Cleanest Show in the West”. This motto meant to him, clean-cut employees, new uniforms each year, a litter free midway, innovative food and game concessions, ATM availability and bright, colorful, new, high capacity family and spectacular rides and providing a safe and customer-friendly environment. Butch saw improvement was needed in the carnival industry, he took steps by improving carnival fair relations and thus promoting strong community relationships.

His creativity and innovative skills have made him one of the most respected carnival industry leaders in the nation. He was honored to be inducted into the Western Fairs Hall of Fame at the association’s 2005 convention in recognition of his outstanding service to the industry and the countless fairs where he has been the carnival provider. Butch has consistently been one of the strongest voices in promoting improved carnival ride safety and game legislation in California. He has served in many leadership capacities, including President of the Showfolks of America, Showmen’s League of America, and Pacific Coast Showmen's League, Service Member Director of the Western Fairs Association, member of the Board of Directors for Preferred Amusement Risk and chairman of its Loss Prevention Committee.

Butler Amusements was also recognized for its first class operation at the 2006 and 2010 International Association of Fairs Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada when it was awarded the Circle of Excellence designation by the Outdoor Amusement Business Association. This coveted designation by the OABA as the “BEST OF THE BEST” is recognized by the International Association of Fairs as designation of a well- run, safe, high quality and well- managed carnival operation. Butch Butler’s entire family is involved in the operation of the company today. Tami, the oldest daughter, manages the office at Butler’s Winter Quarters and Maintenance Facility while her husband Ron is in charge of the shows safety and transportation. Kelley, the second daughter, operates food concessions and manages her father’s unit office. Kris, the third daughter, along with her husband Mick, manage the other large unit that provides the carnival to fairs and events in California, Oregon and Washington. Jill, the youngest daughter, operates rides and multiple food concessions with her husband Lance who is the manager of one of the carnival units. Sean, a college student, and the youngest member of the family serves as a Unit Manager during summer vacations. Butch’s hard work and determination has provided a legacy for his family who he has said was his “finest accomplishment”. Earl was an avid sports fan, basketball being his favorite. It taught him the meaning of teamwork and a winning competitive attitude. Only second to his love for his family was his love for charity work. Earl was responsible for thousands of fundraising carnivals, was the leader in funding numerous public and private academic scholarship programs, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to local 4-H organizations and many other charitable endeavors, too numerous to name.

On behalf of everyone at Carnival Magazine, we express our deepest sympathies to all those at Butler Amusements as well as his friends and family.

Butch Butler Passes Away

Carnival Magazine is sad to report that Butch Butler owner of Butler Amusements passed away yesterday evening.  Butch dedicated his life to the carnival business and was a talented showman.  More details on arrangements will come when available.

Carnival Magazine expresses its deepest condolences to all of Butler Amusements and Butch's friends and family.

New 2012 and 2013 Rides from KMG

KMG is currently working on a deal for a “Speed” (Booster) ride about 230-feet tall and holding 24 to 32 riders. The first unit will be delivered in 2013.  Also planned for 2013 is a 230-foot Inversion that will premiere in Europe. Both rides will be available in transportable and park versions, travel on 4 semi-trailers, and come with the latest in LED technology, scenery, and sound systems. No crane is required for either attraction. Concept drawings for these rides will be available at the IAAPA Convention.

Also from KMG is the tallest transportable chain swing ride to date, The KMG Stratosphere. This new ride is constructed on two      trailers and has a telescopic tower reaching a height of 214-feet along the midway. According to KMG, the complete tower rotates during the ride cycle and is equipped with LED      lights along the tower, arms, seats, operator booth, and entrance. The ride is comprised of 12 seats, each holding two people. Set up takes between five and six hours, no crane required. The first unit has been purchased by McDonagh’s Amusements and will be ready for the 2012 season.

Now ready for the midway is KMG’s XLR8. As described in the March 2011 issue, XLR8 holds 16 passengers in 8 gondolas. During operation, the ride reaches a      speed of 65km/hour, offering extreme acceleration and deceleration. “First test runs have been made and were very impressive,” says Peter Theunisz of KMG. “We’re installing a new LED light system and completing artwork now.”

Soon available from KMG is the new ride, Sicko. This swing ride is five meters higher than the Fire Ball and has the same set up system as the XXL. The pendulum (swing-arm) is V-shaped and swings up to 120˚ with motorized, rotating seats. The Sicko is constructed on two semi-trailers and can be set up without a crane. The ride swings up to 85 ft. The first Sicko is sold to France and will be delivered in May 2012. The ride will be revealed at the IAAPA Show.


12.8.11 Midway Talk

Former Delaware State Fair President, William M. Chambers, Jr., passed away on November 19, 2011 at the age of 76. Mr. Chambers was a lifelong resident of lower Delaware and was president of the fair from 1988 until 1996. He was a member of the Delaware State Fair Board of Directors prior to his presidency beginning in 1966. Services for Mr. Chambers were held on the Delaware State Fairgrounds.

The Georgia State Fair has been sold to Universal Fairs, a Tennessee-based firm. The fair was owned by the Exchange Club of Macon since 1942. The sales price of the fair was not disclosed. Prior to the sale, the Exchange Club of Macon had voted to cancel the 2012 edition due to economic restraints. That decision may be reversed under the new ownership. Mark Lovell is the President of Universal Fairs. Amusements of America is the midway provider for the Georgia State Fair. The event was held April 30 – May 8 in 2011.

The Arizona State Fair in Phoenix marked record-breaking attendance in 2011. More than 1,077,000 fairgoers attended the three-week event from October 14 through November 6. Ray Cammack Shows provided the midway. The 2012 edition of the Arizona State Fair is slated for October 12 through November 4.

Butler Amusements has extended their contract by two years at the Southwest Washington Fair. The Southwest Washington Fair was founded in 1909 and takes place mid-August in Chehalis, WA. The average attendance is 95,000 every year.

The State Fair of Virginia Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but intends to continue normal operations throughout the process. “This is just something we’re trying to go through to put ourselves on more stable financial footing,” State Fair of Virginia CEO, Curry Roberts, told the Richmond BizSense. Financial troubles stem from the Fair’s move to Meadow Event Park that required an $83 million loan from a group of fifteen lenders. The fair saw a rise in attendance in 2011, but the organization’s portfolio of investments makes bankruptcy the best option. Deggeller Attractions provides the midway for the State Fair of Virginia. Dates for 2011 were September 29 through October 9, opening six days later than 2010 in order to encompass the eve of Columbus Day. The fair attracted 268,930 visitors, which is the highest attendance on record since moving to the Meadow Event Park three years ago. The number also marks the second largest attendance in the events history since 1998. The event was founded in 1854. The 2012 State Fair will run from September 27 – October 7.

The Wisconsin State Fair won 24 awards at the 2011 International Fairs and Exposition Convention in Las Vegas, NV. Among the first place awards received by the organization were Best Ad Campaign, Best Newspaper Ad, Point of Purchase Display, Printed Promotional Material, and Media Guide categories. “Bringing this many awards to Wisconsin is invigorating when we are in the midst of planning for 2012,” said Rick Frenette, CEO of State Fair Park. The fair is transitioning to an independent midway in 2012. Fair dates are set for August 2 – 12.

The Steele County Free Fair of Owatonna, Minnesota has selected Gold Star Amusements as their 2012 midway provider. Merriam’s Midway Shows provided the fair’s midway for the past 18 years. Gold Star Amusements will provide 32 to 40 rides including spectaculars that have never appeared at the Steele County Fair. A Power Surge, Remix II, Century Wheel, and Musik Express are among some of Gold Star’s rides. The carnival is based in Minneapolis, MN. “We are convinced that Gold Star Amusements is the answer to where we want to see the Steele County Free Fair be in the years to come,” says Corky Ebeling, President of the Board of Directors for the fair. Traditional ride specials such as the mega-ride ticket will still be available in 2012. Dates for this year’s event are August 14 – 19.

Michigan State University’s undergraduate student government (ASMU) has begun a campaign to bring back the Michigan State Fair. The group passed a resolution in November supporting the project, which would possibly utilize school property for the fair. Bringing back the fair would require either private funding or state funding. The Michigan State Fair was held in Detroit from 1905 until 2009; there was no State Fair in 2010 or 2011.

Billy and Sue Clark of Smoky Mountain Amusements celebrated their 50th anniversary in Brooksville, Florida on November 20, 2011. A party was held in honor of the couple. See a photo in Direct from the Lots of Billy and Sue at the event.

Bob DeStefano’s Dreamland Amusements recently purchased a new A.R.M. Vertigo. The new attraction will arrive this spring. Dreamland has also acquired a Sellner Anchors Away. It was the only unit ever built by Sellner. On the Dreamland midway this year was a new one-truck Wisdom Himalaya.

Bill Hall has purchased his eighth band organ and is waiting for it to arrive so he can begin its restoration. The organ was originally owned by the Wade family and first appeared on the Wade Shows midway in 1923. It accompanied the show’s carousel for many years. This will be the first American-made organ in his collection. It is a Wurlitzer 153 and will be arriving from Michigan.

Congratulations to the Deggeller family who welcomed their newest edition, Griffin Andrew Elsperman this fall. Carnival Magazine spoke with Griffin’s grandfather, show owner Don Deggeller just a short while before meeting his one month old grandson for the first time. He and Kathy were on the road when their daughter, Heidi gave birth to Griffin and were not able to see him right away. Both Heidi and her husband, Cliff are excited to be parents. Griffin joins the family after a positive year according to Don. “The season was great,” reports Don. “The bad weather hit at the right times so we had great weekends throughout the season.” A refurbished Wisdom Aladdin joined the Deggeller midway this year. After receiving a wrap from Amusement Wraps and a new paint scheme from Jeff Deggeller, the ride was re-introduced as the Rockin’ Out.

The 152nd Mississippi State Fair recorded 694,892 fairgoers this year. The number surpasses last year’s attendance record by over 20,000 people. The Mississippi State Fair is held in Jackson and ran from October 5 through 16. North American Midway Entertainment provided the midway with more than 60 rides on hand.

N.A.M.E. also provided the midway for the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia from October 12 through 23. They premiered their new Fast Pass ticketing option at the event. The Fast Pass offered fairgoers the option of purchasing an express ticket for rides. Those wearing Fast Pass lanyards were able to bypass long lines via designated ride entrances. Careful monitoring of Fast Pass sales by N.A.M.E. ensured that the system worked. The system received positive feedback from fair officials and guests and N.A.M.E. itself was pleased with the results. Despite several days of rain and wind, attendance at the South Carolina State Fair still reached 442,494. Gross from food concessions was down just 1% from 2010 at $3,687,262 and ride gross was $3,170,979, down only 2% from 2010. This was the 142nd edition of the fair. The midway was comprised of over 70 rides. A full report on N.A.M.E. at the SC State Fair and the Big E coming next month.

Reithoffer Shows’ provided the midway at the Georgia National Fair in Perry, GA from October 6 through 16. Appearing at the fair for the first time was Reithoffer Shows’ new Technical Park Loop Fighter 360 themed Stinger. The ride is the first and only in the United States and was delivered this year. Also new were kiddie rides: Hot Wheels, Toy Box, Flying Tigers, and a Circus Train. Attendance reached 439,931—a positive number even with wet weather during the fair’s run. This was the 22nd annual Georgia National Fair. Next year’s event will take place from October 4 through 14.

Peter Theunisz of KMG Rides reports that McDonagh Amusements has purchased a new attraction entitled the Stratosphere. It is the tallest transportable chain swing ever made, reaching 214-feet in the air. The ride will be shipped in early November and arrive stateside in December. Also from KMG, the newly developed attraction, XLR8 has completed its first test runs with great success. The one-trailer next received additional artwork and LED lighting and was on track for full-operation in November 2011. KMG’s next thrill—set for 2012—is the Sicko. The attraction is a swing ride with motorized seats. The first Sicko has already been sold to a buyer in France. Read more about these new pieces in the New Products section of this issue.

In other recent KMG news, Poor Jack Amusements will collect their brand new Freak Out at the 2012 IISF Trade Show in Gibtown. Also the new KMG Speed, owned by Larry Sankowsky’s Armco, Inc. is slated for display at the IISF Trade Show.

The State Fair of Texas celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2011. The fair took place in Dallas from September 30 through October 23. Preliminary estimates indicate that it was a positive year with over $35 million gross in rides and food concessions. Midway rides were provided by various operators on the independent midway. For the first time in the fair's history was an exhibit entitled Greenhouse on the Midway. The exhibit featured plenty of greenery as well as cooling mist stations and an electric light show that began every fifteen minutes nightly.

The Tulsa State Fair saw a rise in attendance for the second consecutive year. The event ran from September 29 through October 2. Estimates indicate that 1,123,000 attendees visited the fair, up 2% from last year. Gross from midway rides were also up this year, earning 18% more than 2010. Murphy Brothers Exposition provided the midway, which included the Comet II Roller Coaster, the Spin Out, and the Maxx.

The North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh saw attendance surpass the million-mark for a second year. Attendance this year reached 1,009,173. The fair took place October 13 through October 23 with midway provided by Powers Great American Midways. PGAM will return to Raleigh for a New Year’s Eve event. They will supply their Mulligan Wheel for the New Year’s celebration. Read more about PGAM’S 2011 season in next month’s issue.

The San Diego County Fair has announced their 2012 dates and theme. The event will run from Friday, June 8 through Wednesday, July 4 with Mondays closed except for July 2. The theme is Universe Invited and mix science-fiction fun with space exploration education. For more information, visit www.sdfair.com.

Congratulations to the OABA 2012 Show Rep Contest Winners. In first place was Debbie Powers of Powers Great American Midways followed by Alicia Eskes of West Coast Amusements in second and Katherine (KT) de Swadt of a Fantasy Amusement Co. in third.

From IAAPA , the board of directors has elected Gerardo Arteaga as Third Vice Chairman. Arteaga is the General Manager of Fantasilandia in Santiago, Chile. He will move through the positions of third, second and first vice chairman and then lead the association as Chairman of the Board in 2015. Arteaga grew up in the attractions industry. His family built Santiago’s Fantasilandia Amusement Park in 1978.

Artist and Moore College or Art & Design Alumni, Jane Walentas, received the 2011 Moore Visionary Woman Award. Her featured work includes a major restoration of a 1922 Carousel manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. The ride is now a New York landmark residing in Dumbo’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was the first Carousel to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In conjunction with the award presented to Jane Walentas, an exhibition of her work is on display at the Levy Gallery for the Arts in Philadelphia, PA through December 10. The exhibition traces the carousel’s extraordinary journey from auction block to its permanent home. This journey is depicted through video and photography. Find out more at www.thegalleriesatmoore.org.