Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson's Ride Featured at Alameda County Fair

By Sam Levin
Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 5:18 PM

The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, which opens tomorrow, will feature a ride purchased from Michael Jackson's infamous Neverland Ranch amusement park.

The ride, Balloon Samba, which is designed to look like a hot-air balloon, will be part of the Children's Park in the month-long fair. The California-based carnival company, Butler Amusements, purchased the ride along with three others from Michael Jackson last September, according to their spokesperson Andrea Owen.

Owen said that the other three rides from Jackson's ranch, which include a dragon ride and a train ride, are still being refurbished and transformed into rides that they can transport to fairs in future years - including possibly at the Alameda County Fair.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, President Earl Butler of Butler Amusements had not disclosed the origins of the ride prior to Jackson's death. But on Friday, he shared his story with county fair officials, informing them that the ride did in fact come from Jackson's Neverland.

Owen said that it is somewhat unique to purchase so many rides from one source, and for this reason many people have been inquiring about the source since last year. According to Owen, the ride cost Butler Amusements more than $40,000.

Balloon Samba will be open to the public at the Alameda County Fair for the first time on Wednesday, although it was launched in February on the Butler Amusement Fair circuit. Alameda County Fair officials plan to set up signs explaining the history of the ride, paying tribute to its famous original owner.

"We bought these rides before he had even felt ill," Owen said of the timing of the new ride so close to Jackson's death. Since September, they have been refurbishing the ride and readying it for the fair. A week before the unveiling, it was surprising to many involved that the celebrity owner passed away. Sandra Varner, a consultant for the Alameda County Fair said, "It is very timely that it happened."

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