by Timothy Herrick
Monday, February 24, 2020
The largest California-based carnival company turns 50 in 2020 and the outlook is positive, if the economy remains as strong as it was in 2019 and the weather follows 2018 patterns. As Sean Butler, Chief Operating Officer & Unit Manager of Butler Amusement explains, “2018 was very dry and with the economy starting to boom we had a stellar 2018. In 2019 we had a very wet spring but luckily the summer had some big hits and we set records at most of our fairs from June onward. All in all, a great year. Overall our fair season either matched 2018 or was up slightly.”
Butler Amusements is unique, even among the cadre of the largest carnival companys. The company has a ride inventory upwards of 150 rides and for much of the summer, the company runs three main units, although the units merge for the larger fairs during the summer. The company consistently ranks 4th on Carnival Warehouses' annual list of Carnival Companies playing the Top 50 Fairs, which in 2019 included : Big Fresno Fair, the California State Fair, Alameda County Fair, Kern County Fair, and the Evergreen Fair.
Typically, the seasons begins in January and concludes in mid-October, followed by a coda of two Christmas events in December.
Tough Start, Good FinishThe second decade of the 21st century was not always as positive as its final years, especially on the west coast, which was ravaged by the Great Recession, and for California especially, plagued by a drought that negatively impacted the state's agricultural industry. “This region was hit pretty hard by the recession a few years ago and it seemed to linger longer,” said Butler. Now, the economy is very strong in California, there are still some cities in the central valley of California that are struggling to recover from the recession. All of our fairs, except for one or two are done with drought restrictions in California, but most of our fair partners have tried to keep control of water waste.”
But as the season begins, like most carnival companies, workforce issues cause the most apprehension. In the 2020 season, the company will employ “340 H-2B employees and around 75 American employees for our rides,” said Butler. “We had to start our 2019 & 2020 season a full month earlier than we ever had in the past in order to secure the employees we need for our season.”
As finding and hiring qualified personnel becomes more challenging, the company has also geared up training and retention programs, realizing that the company growth requires a stable and skilled workforce. “ Our employees are the lifeblood of our company and industry; we have been very lucky to get them,” he said. “Just like any company that has been around for over a generation, we have to train more people to learn positions that some of our core employees have been in for decades. We have had many great new additions to our staff in the last couple of years and we will have to continue to add more as time goes on.”
Read complete article and find photos here