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California State Fair plans to offer deep discounts to visitors


By Ron Weber, Editor

Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

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Sacramento, CA - Butler Amusements has signed a ten-year contract to provide the midway for Cal Expo. The event, which grossed $3,500,239.50 in 2008, is one of the Top 50 Fairs in North America and a prized carnival contract.

Ray Cammack Shows, the previous carnival provider, developed an unavoidable scheduling conflict due to obligations to the Orange County and Los Angeles County Fairs.

Cal Expo issued a Request for Qualifications and ultimately Butler Amusements was selected for a variety of reasons said Erica Manuel, Assistant General Manager of Cal Expo. "We expect to see a lot of great changes in 2009. We will obviously have a new layout, and different rides and attractions, but we will maintain the beautification program fair patrons have come to expect and enjoy", she said. Manuel also cited Butler's "stellar rPhoto By Butler Amusementseputation, their flexibility and their ride inventory" as factors in the final decision.

Butler Amusements, Earl "Butch" Butler was very happy with the new contract. "We feel very pleased and honored to be selected to provide the midway at the California State Fair. We feel that it is a wonderful step for our company, and is perfectly aligned with the direction we want our company to continue heading towards. The undertaking of this contract will improve the fair as well as our operations", he said.

The new contract calls for Butler to provide a minimum of 55 rides, 40 games up to 2,000 linear feet and a maximum of 13 food stands. Butler will pay Cal Expo 42% of ride gross up to $1,500,000, 40% from $1,500,000 to $3,000,000 and 35% above $3,000,000. In addition, Butler will pay the fair $200,000 for capital improvements and $50,000 for marketing each year of the contract. The contract also has a provision for a fuel surcharge remission should fuel prices increase by over 25% from current prices, averaged over a three-year period.

A major change Cal Expo guests will see is a simplification in pricing and promotions. "With discretionary income at an all-time low, we have to appeal to families' need for wholesome, affordable entertainment. Butler Amusements has already agreed to support some very deep discount promotions that will address the value message we hope to drive home in this down economy", said Manuel.

The fair and carnival said they will be introducing a new pay one price promotion that will be unveiled at the State Fair for the first time in nearly a decade. They will allow on-site wristband purchases every day with no cutoff times. Wristbands will be available every day of the fair. In the past, the availability was limited only to certain hours and days. They hope the simplification of pricing options will lead to happier customers and higher grosses.

Ride grosses have remained constant in 2008 although expenses were definitely on the rise. "We did as well with our gross as we had in the past. They held up as far as economy goes but expenses went up. Unfortunately, the maintained numbers from our grosses are not enough to off set our expenses", he said.

Butler Amusements Midway AmenitiesDespite economic concerns in 2009, Butler was optimistic about the coming season. "By the time our season picks up, and everyone is out working things will be looking pretty good. We expect that local communities will be looking for entertainment near home because they don't have the money to take long, far and more expensive trips", he added.

Butler said the company would be cutting back a little on new purchases until mid-season but new purchases so far for 2009 included a Wisdom manufactured Windsurfer, a Balloon Samba, Dinosaur ride, Hampton ride, Lolli Swing, Bumper Car and the U Toob Funhouse.

These rides will be on display at Cal Expo along with other spectacular rides from the Butler inventory. Fair guests can expect to see the Pole Position Spinning Coaster, the Olympic Bobsled, the Super Shot Drop Tower and the Wave Swinger on the Butler midway.

Other midway changes were still in the planning stages. However, Butler promised a different style and color theme and additional lights for a brighter midway.

Pointing to their extensive experience with large fairs, Butler said his company has provided the carnival for close to one thousand fairs since its inception. "We have the largest selection of high capacity rides, plus games and food concessions and we believe that we will be a major asset to the California State Fair".

Throughout the process, Butler said he enjoyed working with Cal Expo management and staff and hopes to have a big impact on the fair. "Working with California State fair has been a dream. Everyone on staff is very personable and professional. Both our companies are aggressively finding new ways to improve the event and the public will garner the benefits".

Butler Amusements

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