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Wendell “Bud” Hurlbut (1918–2011) was a designer, builder and entrepreneur who was one of the first creators of theme parks in the United States.[1]

Bud Hurlbut (left) and Walter Knott (right) riding the Timber Mountain Log Ride, Knott's Berry Farm, 1969.

Early life[edit]

Hurlbut was born in Watertown, SD, the only child of Ray and Emma Hurlbut. The family moved to Whittier, CA, where Ray managed a successful oil tool company. Bud worked in a printing company, and worked as a pattern maker for Vulltee Aircraft before getting into the amusement park business.[2]

Mine Ride at Knott's Berry Farm.

Theme Park Creator[edit]

Hurlbut’s amusement park experience began with his designing and building small-scale trains on which people could ride. He sold 12 of them to other operators, then installed one in his own kiddie park in El Monte, CA. It was his experience with Walter Knott though, that would make a name for Hurlbut Amusement Co. and transform Knott’s Berry Farm from a chicken dinner restaurant and “ghost town” into a major theme park.[3]

Log Ride at Knott's Berry Farm.

Hurbut began as a concessionaire at Knott’s, operating an 1896 Dentzell Menagerie carousel. In 1958, he added the Tijuana Taxi, and in 1959, a small train around Knott’s Lagoon. The major innovation occurred with the Calico Mine Ride in 1960. This ride was the first authentic “dark” amusement ride, and it has been emulated by amusement parks ever since. Guests boarded an old-time mine train that took them in a “mine” inside a “mountain.” Walt Disney frequently came to watch construction on the ride.[4][5][6][7][8]

Bud Hurlbut in Calico Mine Ride engine.

Hurlbut sold his ranch, his home, and his new Cadillac to raise money to build the experiment. Part way through construction though, he had to go to Walter Knott and explain that his funds were running out. Knott asked him, “Well, you know what you’re doing, right?” Hurlbut described his reply to Knott this way: “I told him ‘Yeah, sure.’ I never lied to him again.”[9][10][11]

Knott allowed Hurlbut to suspend his rent payments, and Knott also agreed to pay for a promotional film for the new ride. Hurlbut was able to complete construction and the ride became an instant success.[12]

In 1966, Knott built a full-scale replica of Independence Hall at the park. Hurlbut made an exact replica of the Liberty Bell and gave it to Knott as a gift.[13][14][15]

Bud Hurlbut working on the Liberty Bell replica for Knott's Berry Farm.

In 1968, Hurlbut broke ground on building the Timber Mountain Log Ride, which, along with the Mine Ride, is still considered one of the iconic rides of the park, and one of the most popular. On some days, the turnstile ridership of the Log Ride exceeds that of the front gate of the park (Many people ride it twice). The ride demonstrates great attention to detail, which is the key characteristic of Hurlbut’s creations. Many of the items seen on the ride are actual cast-iron gears, steam donkey engines, and sawmill equipment from over a hundred years ago.[16][17][18]

Bud Hurlbut (left) describing how the 125 h.p. pumps work in the Log Ride to Walter Knott (right), 1969.

Marty Keithly, general manager of Knott’s Berry Farm, said, “There would not be a Knott’s Berry Farm theme park today if it were not for the talent, determination and creativity of Bud Hurlbut.”[19]

Hurlbut designed and operated his own amusement park, Castle Park, in Riverside, California. He also designed the replica 1880’s train that ran for many years in Santa’s Village in the San Bernardino Mountains, and now is at the Santa Ana Zoo.[20] Another of Hurbut's trains, built in 1938, is in operation at Adventure City, which is part of the Hobby City complex in Anaheim, CA[21]"California Railroad Attractions," Denver Rails Web site (http://www.denverrails.com/db/stlist.cfm?state=CA), Retrieved 8-10-2011.</ref>

Liberty Bell in Knott's full-scale replica of Independence Hall.

He was also one of the creators of Halloween Haunt, which is an annual event at Knott’s. Hurlbut was even one of the original "monsters," dressing up in an ape costume, hiding inside the Mine Ride, and popping out to scare the guests. There are now over 1,000 “monsters” at Halloween Haunt, and the event has grown to be the most successful special event of any amusement park in the US.[22]

Hurlbut Amusement Co. shops/office, Buena Park, CA.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mello, Michael, “Knott’s Berry Farm icon dies,” Orange County Register, 1-6-11 (http://ocresort.ocregister.com/2011/01/06/knotts-berry-farm-icon-dies/66158/), Retrieved 8-3-11.
  2. ^ ”Wendell “Bud” Hurlbut obituary, Orange County Register, 1-8-11 (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/orangecounty/obituary.aspx?n=wendell-hurlbut-bud&pid=147658332), Retrieved 8-3-11.
  3. ^ Merritt, Christopher, Knott’s Preserved, pp. 94-95, Angel City Press, Santa Monica, CA, 2010.
  4. ^ Berg, Tom, “When alligators roamed Orange County,” Orange County Register, 9-15-2008, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/knott-64241-says-park.html ), Retrieved 8-4-2011.
  5. ^ Merritt, Christopher, Knott’s Preserved, pp. 93-105, Angel City Press, Santa Monica, CA, 2010.
  6. ^ Kooiman, Helen, Walter Knott: Keeper of the Flame, pp. 159-64, Plycon Press, Fullerton, CA, 1973.
  7. ^ Salts, Christiane, Cordelia Knott: Pioneering Business Woman, pp. 55-56, The Literature Connection, Buena Park, CA, 2009.
  8. ^ ”Knott’s iconic Calico Mine Ride plugs along,” Orange County Register, 4-11-2011 (http://www.ocregister.com/news/-275808--.html?pic=13), Retrieved 8-4-2011.
  9. ^ Mello, Michael, “Knott’s Berry Farm icon dies,” Orange County Register, 1-6-11 (http://ocresort.ocregister.com/2011/01/06/knotts-berry-farm-icon-dies/66158/), Retrieved 8-3-11.
  10. ^ Merritt, Christopher, Knott’s Preserved, pp. 93-105, Angel City Press, Santa Monica, CA, 2010.
  11. ^ Mello, Michael, “Knott’s Mine Train still rolling after 50 years,” Orange County Register, 11-12-2010 (http://www.ocregister.com/news/-275808--.html?pic=13), Retrieved 8-4-2011.
  12. ^ Merritt, Christopher, Knott’s Preserved, pp. 93-105, Angel City Press, Santa Monica, CA, 2010.
  13. ^ Kooiman, Helen, Walter Knott: Keeper of the Flame, pp. 184-207, Plycon Press, Fullerton, CA, 1973.
  14. ^ Salts, Christiane, Cordelia Knott: Pioneering Business Woman, pp. 77-78, The Literature Connection, Buena Park, CA, 2009.
  15. ^ "O.C. History Roundup: Bud Hurlbut (1918-2011)". Chris Jepsen. 2011-01-06. Retrieved 2011-03-17. 
  16. ^ Harris, Richard, Early Amusement Parks of Orange County, pp.24-40, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC, 2008.
  17. ^ Mello, Michael, “Theme park history for sale,” Orange County Register, 4-11-2011 (http://www.ocregister.com/news/-275808--.html?pic=13), Retrieved 8-4-2011.
  18. ^ Mello, Michael, “A peek at Knott’s iconic water ride,” Orange County Register, 7-28-2011, (http://ocresort.ocregister.com/2011/07/28/a-peek-at-knotts-iconic-water-ride/82659/), Retrieved 8-4-2011.
  19. ^ Mello, Michael, “Knott’s Berry Farm icon dies,” Orange County Register, 1-6-11 (http://ocresort.ocregister.com/2011/01/06/knotts-berry-farm-icon-dies/66158/), Retrieved 8-3-11.
  20. ^ ”Knott’s Berry Farm ride creator Bud Hurlbut dies,” Orange County Register, 1-6-11 (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/-283078--.html?pic=1), Retrieved 8-4-2011.
  21. ^ "Adventure City Express Train," Adventure City Web site (http://www.adventurecity.com/rides-and-attractions/express-train.aspx), Retrieved 8-10-2011.
  22. ^ Merritt, Christopher, Knott’s Preserved, pp. 126-30, Angel City Press, Santa Monica, CA, 2010.

External links[edit]


Category:People from South Dakota Category:1918 births