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Thrills, spins and sky high rides at the carnival

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Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 1:00 pm | Updated: 1:22 pm, Tue Sep 11, 2012.

If you’re on the lookout for a ride that spins you around, tosses you into the air, or does both, among the bright lights and big noise of the carnival are where you belong.

Butler Amusements are back again at the Grape Festival providing classic rides and new twists on old favorites. It’s a family company that has been in the carnival business for 42 years and abides by the motto “The Cleanest Show in the West.”

Though Earl “Butch” Butler, the head of the family, passed away in 2011, his children and the next generation of Butlers are continuing his legacy.

Marketing director Andrea Owen said the family completely rallied together to keep the company going.

“It’s really running great as usual,” she said. “There’s not a whole lot of getting used to it because they’re already doing the same jobs.”

They’ve got over 140 rides in their amusement arsenal and are bringing more than 30 with them for the festival.

The Tilt-A-Whirl has been redesigned as the Circle of Champions but offers the familiar spins and waves we all remember. The Flying Swinger is a big hit since it offers a really high ride with a great view, but is not too jolting. The popular Sky Diver is like a Ferris wheel, but secures riders in an enclosed seat they can turn upside down with a wheel. There is a Mardi Gras themed fun house and an area full of rides set aside for the little ones.

But that won’t suit the real thrill seekers among us.

The Gravitron promises to spin riders in such a fast circle that they are stuck to the outer wall, floating weightlessly. The Super Round Up, one of the most popular rides, does one better. Once riders are pinned to the wall, the whole ride is lifted vertically. Riders careen up to the sky and back down to earth with nothing but a wire cage between their bodies and the open air.

A new ride this year is the Viper. Rider’s legs dangle free while an overhead bar scrambles the cars through the air.

The Zipper locks riders in a steel cage within a contraption of three moving parts. Riders rise and descend on the main arm, which windmills in a huge circle. Oh, and those riders turn somersaults at random in their cages.

All the rides have room to bring a hand to hold, if it’s needed.

“Adults can ride with kids if they are too small or not brave enough,” said Owen.

Be sure to grab a cold drink as you meander through the carnival. Owen says the best way to avoid getting sick on a ride is to stay hydrated and out of the sun.

From the stomach churning delights to favorites like the giant slide, the carousel and the Ferris wheel, and you have the ingredients for a true Grape Festival adventure.

The best deal for tickets to get on all your favorite rides is the unlimited rides wristband, good for one day. It’s available in advance of the festival for $20, as well as on opening day. The bracelet is $28 if purchased on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Individual tickets are also available. They are $1 each, or can be purchased in bulk. Twenty-five tickets cost $23, and 80 tickets cost $70.

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