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Party buses keep kids busy

Where do old regional transit buses go when they get replaced? Two of them went to local businessman Dave Carpenter, who, after spending 11 years in the children’s party rental business, wanted to put a new spin on a saturated market.

The Busy Bus is his take on modern party rentals, and he set up one bus as a video game center and another as a gymnastics and tumbling gym on wheels.

Carpenter bought the buses from Davis transit in 2008.

“I was trying to offer something new,” Carpenter said, adding that he launched his business in early 2009.

He’d heard about a company on the East Coast that had set up a similar operation, and he said he thought the idea was intriguing.

Mobile businesses are a growing trend, with food trucks being the most prevalent, but mobile retail shops are also popping up.

The video gaming bus has a pair of 47-inch 3D TVs up front, four 32-inch TVs in a line down one side and a 74-inch projector display on the back wall. About 30 kids can simultaneously play games on the Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Wii consoles, selecting from more than 100 games.


The tumbling/gymnastics bus is geared toward kids ages 2 to 7 and features a trampoline, a ball pit, a rock-climbing wall, rope-climbing stations and various gymnastics equipment.

“It’s basically all the stuff you’d find at a kids gymnastics center,” Carpenter said.


Originally, his idea was to work with preschools to show up on a regular basis with the tumbling bus, but he said the recession saw budgets get cut, and that didn’t pan out.

Calling on his experience as the operator of one of the early companies to rent bounce houses at birthday parties, Carpenter reached out to parents for their kids’ parties.

“It works where if you do one party, the other people see it, and you get business at another party,” he said. “You can have a mixed party with boys and girls, and they’ve been really popular.”

One of the business’ regular clients is Origin Church in Rocklin, which rents the tumbling bus on Sundays for the kids in the congregation.

“He pulls it up here Sunday mornings, and we run our kids’ ministry in there,” said Ryan Alias, pastor’s assistant. “We have three different age groups that we run through there on a rotation. They run in and play around.”

He said the availability of the bus gives the kids something they love, and there is no setup or maintenance required on the church’s part.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s got the ball pit, rope swing, climbing wall – I don’t really know what they wouldn’t like about it.”

The tumbling bus rents for $395 for a three-hour session on weekends and $295 on weekdays. The video game bus rents for $495 for three hours on weekends and $395 on weekdays.

For more information, visit The Busy Bus website.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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