Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Knott's Ride Designer Bud Hurlbut Dies at 92

Wendell "Bud" Hurlbut, who designed and built some of the best-known attractions at Knott's Berry Farm, has passed away at the age of 92.

Hurlbut began working with Walter Knott in the 1950s and designed the Calico Mine Ride, which opened over half a century ago. I think it's Knott's Berry Farm's most distinctive and interesting ride, especially when one considers that it opened many years before Disneyland's somewhat similarly themed -- but much faster! -- Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Hurlbut also designed the park's Log Ride, which opened in 1969. One of Hurlbut's associates said "The log ride was for anyone from a baby to 80," and indeed, I have fond memories of going on the Log Ride with my maternal grandmother when I was a little girl.

The Spring 2001 issue of the late, lamented "E" Ticket magazine took time out from Disneyland to publish a lengthy profile of Hurlbut, as well as a well-illustrated piece on the Log Ride. There's a classic film tie-in to the Log Ride, as the first official rider was John Wayne, along with his son John Ethan. (The magazine also came up with a rather amazing crowd photo which clearly shows future Disney Imagineering legend Tony Baxter in line for the ride on opening day.)

Hurlbut also built the replica of the Liberty Bell for Knott's Berry Farm's Independence Hall.

There's an excellent photo-filled tribute to Hurlbut at O.C. History Roundup.

Another obituary can be found at the Orange County Register.

Thanks for all the great times and happy memories, Mr. Hurlbut.


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