Clarke Historical Library
Central Michigan University

Finding aid for
Ray Genter collection

Finding aid created by
Marian Matyn

Summary Information
Title: Ray Genter collection,
Creator: Genter, Ray.
Inclusive dates: 1955, 2010, and undated
Extent: 4 cubic feet (in 8 boxes, 1 oversized folder)
This collection includes business records, correspondence, and reference materials documenting Genter's carnival business and carnival and circus collecting interests. Also included is an oversized folder of mostly Michigan carnival and circus posters and window cards.

Call number: MSS.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University
250 East Preston Street
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
Phone: 989-774-3352
Fax: 989-774-2160

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:


Access Restrictions:

Ray Genter collection is open for research.


Some of the publications are copyrighted, otherwise copyright is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Ray Genter collection, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University


The series are reference and then route materials. Arrangement is alphabetical and chronological.



Ray Genter was born on April 28, 1935 in Ludington, Michigan, and grew up across the street from the local fairgrounds. As a child, Ray became ill from drinking some pink lemonade at a carnival one night and since then has been fascinated with carnivals. He helped when the carnivals came to town. Ray preferred working in the cookhouse, but also helped set up the merry-go-round, ferris wheel, and even fed the elephants.

As an adult, Ray married his first wife. He attended model builders’ conventions. He later married Sharon Genter with whom he attended circuses and carnivals. Beginning about 1970, Ray began purchasing carnival equipment and rides. He purchased his first carnival ride, a King Combination, from a man with an amusement park, Deer Park, later Michigan Adventure. A train ride and additional rides soon followed. This was done under the business banner of Genter Bros. Shows and Rides, Inc.

Soon, with his son, Rick, Ray owned and operated a small carnival, from 1980 through 1986, under the name Great Lakes Amusements Co., Inc. Their route included the center of the state, mostly small town celebrations, including Greenville’s Danish Festival, Red Flannel Days, Lakeview, Six Lakes, Muskegon and North Muskegon, among others. Ray also helped booked carnivals, went out with the Lee Elliott Shows, and loaned carnivals when they needed money. There is, regrettably, no documentation of these activities in the collection. The Genters employed local teens who had a B average or better in their carnival. They had strict rules about appearances and demanded access to showers for their crew. As a smaller operation with mainly older rides, they cut corners where they could to survive.

While operating the carnival, Ray and Sharon and their family also simultaneously owned and operated Flowers by Ray and Sharon. In 2010, they were named as one of the top 200 florists in the U.S. They have owned and operated their floral business for over 40 years, and in 2010 owned stores located in North Muskegon, Muskegon Township and Norton Shores.

In 1987 with insurance costs rising, and being pulled between the two businesses, the Genters stopped operating the carnival and sold off their equipment.

For fun, Ray began creating a miniature carnival in 1985. It included 127 rides, 74 shows, 275 concession stands, and about 15, 000 miniature pieces. The miniature display was donated in 2009 to the International Independent Showman’s Museum in Gibsonton, Florida, where it will be displayed in the future. He also collected an extensive collection of thousands of posters and circus and carnival books, pamphlets, dime novels, and other collectibles, many of which were sold in 2010. Ray remains actively interested and involved in carnivals and circus history and organizations.

In 2010 Ray and Sharon lived in White Hall, Michigan. They are lovely people. (This information is from an interview Marian Matyn conducted with Ray and Sharon Genter on October 26, 2009, and an article about Ray’s miniature carnival entitled, “It’s the little things…”, in the Muskegon Chronicle, October 12, 2009.)

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection, 1955-2010, and undated (4 cubic feet) documents Ray Genter’s fascination with, and collecting of, carnival equipment and collectibles under the business name of Genter Bros. Shows and Rides, Inc., and his carnival, Great Lakes Amusement.

Boxes 1-6 include subject files of general carnival and circus information; financial records of the purchase and sale of equipment and collectibles; catalogs and fliers; advertisements; insurance; various forms; correspondence with committees, suppliers, and concessionaires; contact information of various suppliers and concessionaires as well as fair committee members; and information documenting how the Muskegon Optimist Club, of which Ray was a member, brought circuses to Muskegon. A few newspaper clippings (copies) are included. Of particular interest to carnival historians will be the material concerning the formation of the Amusement-Safety Act of 1966 and its related board, as documented in the minutes and correspondence of the Michigan Amusement Association, an organization of carnival owners, 1985-1987. These folders are organized alphabetically and chronologically.

Boxes 7-8 include the route lists, 1984-1987, and financial documentation, forms, booking agreements, inspection logs, correspondence, and other materials relating to specific route locations and events. This information is alphabetical by town or event. Materials vary from folder to folder, but most include some correspondence and accounts.

Posters and window cards of circus and carnival advertisements, mostly late 20th century and Michigan-related, are included in an oversized folder at the end of the collection.

Processing Notes: A few general Muskegon, Michigan, items of historical value were transferred to the Michigan Vertical Files-Muskegon folder. All information with account or social security numbers, or other personal information such as income, health, or governmental financial support, were withdrawn from the collection, including job and housing applications, cancelled checks, and bank balance statements, as well as duplicate and blank forms and stationery, miscellaneous notes, illegible materials, and miscellaneous information or newspaper clippings. Withdrawn material totaled 2 cubic feet. In addition, several publications by the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions were separately cataloged. Non-Michigan publications are normally withdrawn from a collection during processing, but since many carnival suppliers are national, these were left in the collection to provide information to researchers.

Special Note: Those with allergies should use the collection with care as it has a mildewed odor, although there is no mold in the papers themselves.

Subject Terms

    • Genter, Ray.
    • Michigan Amusement Association.
    • Genter Bros. Shows and Rides, Inc.
    • Great Lakes Amusement Co.
    • Circus World Museum (Baraboo, Wis.)--History.
    • Optimists (Muskegon, Mich.)
    • Carnival-Amusement Safety Act 225 of 1966.
    • Festivals--Michigan.
    • Fairs--Michigan.
    • Circus--United States--History.
    • Carnivals--United States--History.
    • Muskegon (Mich.)--History.
    • Muskegon (Mich.)--Social life and customs--20th century.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Ray Genter collection. [series]:
    Box   1 F   1
    A and G Incorporated [T-shirts] Catalog, 1985
    Box   1 F   2
    Acme Premium Supply Corp. Amusement Merchandise Catalog #86, 1985-Spring 1986
    Box   1 F   3
    Advanced Ticket Sales form [blank], undated
    Box   1 F   4
    Advertising, Correspondence, 1986-1987
    Box   1 F   5
    Albanese Shows, Correspondence, Receipts, Registrations, 1983
    Box   1 F   6
    Amerisure (Insurance), Correspondence, 1987
    Box   1 F   7
    Amusement Business, Amusement Rides and Games Buyers' Guides, 1983-1984
    Box   1 F   8
    Amusement Business, Directory of North American Fairs and Expositions, 1984
    Box   1 F   9
    Amusement Business, Funparks Directories, 1983-1984
    Box   1 F   10
    Application for Food Service License, 1987
    Box   1 F   11
    Application for License to Operate a County/State Fair Food Concession, 1987
    Box   1 F   12
    Application for Permit to Operate a Carnival, 1985
    Box   1 F   13
    Baptists Sound and Mfg.Co. (Sound equipment), Catalog, Receipt, 1971; Catalog, 1981-1982, 1971, 1981-1982
    Box   1 F   14
    Bills of Sale, King 8-car Frolic, 1990; Herschell Caterpillar Ride, 1971; King Train Ride, 1980; Chevrolet van, 1986, 1971, 1980, 1986, 1990
    Box   1 F   15
    Bob Blackmar, List of Circus and Carnival Items for Sale, 1986
    Box   1 F   16
    Business Contacts, Roll-o-dex Cards, 1983-1984
    Box   1 F   17
    Business Contacts, 3x5 inch Notecards, Business Cards, Notes, 1983-1985
    Box   1 F   18
    Carnival Amusement Rides, Daily Inspection Logs, 1985
    Box   1 F   19
    Carnival Amusement Rides, Inspection Reports, Ride Permits/Fees, 1983-1986
    Box   1 F   20
    Carnival-Amusement Safety Act of 1966, 1966, 1985-1986
    Box   1 F   21
    Carnival-Amusement Safety Board, Carnival Itinerary, 1986
    Box   2 F   1
    Carnival [Employee] Time Sheet [blank], undated
    Box   2 F   2
    Carnival Lighting Supplies, Catalog and Price Lists, Receipts, 1983-1987
    Box   2 F   3
    Carnival Press, Images, Calendar of Carnival Dates, 1983
    Box   2 F   4
    Carousels, Price Lists, 1984, 1986
    Box   2 F   5
    Chaddock, Winter and Alberts, Insurance, Correspondence, Receipts, Certificates (2 folders), 1983-1987
    Box   2 F   6
    Circus/Carnival (Others not Genter) Advertisements, Fliers, Cards, 1998-2010
    Box   2 F   7
    Circus Fans, Newsletters (Circus Fan, News from the Lot), July 1955, September 1983
    Box   2 F   8
    Circus Hall of Fame, Sarasota, Florida, Brochure, [1960s]
    Box   2 F   9
    Circus Moves by Rail [book], Advertisement, 1978
    Box   2 F   10
    Circus Programs for Sale, 1985
    Box   2 F   11
    Circus World Museum's Poster Auction, 1984; Library Funding, 1985, 1984-1985
    Box   2 F   12
    Coffman Electrical Equipment Co., Correspondence, Receipts [re: Generator], 1985
    Box   2 F   13
    Comerica Bank, Loans to Purchase Carnival Rides, Equipment, 1983-1985
    Box   2 F   14
    Concessions, Correspondence, Flier, 1985-1987
    Box   2 F   15
    Cooking/Kitchen Equipment, Catalogs, Flier, 1985-1986
    Box   2 F   16
    Correspondence, General, 1986, 1991
    Box   2 F   17
    Correspondence, Letters of Inquiry, Price List, 1986-1987
    Box   2 F   18
    Correspondence with Concessionaires, 1985-1986
    Box   2 F   19
    D and K Supply, Catalog, Correspondence [re: Generator], 1985
    Box   2 F   20
    Detroit Historical Museum, Sawdust Memories Exhibit, Flier, 1982
    Box   2 F   21
    Driver's Daily Triplicate Log Book [blank], 1985
    Box   2 F   22
    Driver/Equipment Compliance Check, 1985
    Box   2 F   23
    Events Turned Down, 1985
    Box   2 F   24
    Flowers by Ray and Sharon, Inc., Stationery, [1985]
    Box   3 F   1
    Food Catalogs, Fliers, 1985-1986
    Box   3 F   2
    Food Catalogs, Fliers, 1985-1987
    Box   3 F   3
    Games, Catalogs, Fliers, 1983, undated
    Box   3 F   4
    Genter Bros. Shows and Rides, Inc., Correspondence, mostly re: Purchasing Rides, 1969-1971
    Box   3 F   5
    Genter Bros. Shows and Rides, Inc., Letterhead, 1971
    Box   3 F   6
    Great Lakes Amusement Co., Annual Financial Report, 1983
    Box   3 F   7
    Great Lakes Amusement Co., Annual Financial Related Materials, 1984
    Box   3 F   8
    Great Lakes Amusement Co., Annual Financial Related Materials, 1985
    Box   3 F   9
    Great Lakes Amusements, Employee Rules, undated
    Box   3 F   10
    Great Lakes Amusements, General Letters of Inquiry, 1987; Rejection Letters, 1985-1987, 1985-1987
    Box   3 F   11
    Home Amusement Company, Inc., Auction Flier, 1991
    Box   3 F   12
    Insurance Correspondence, Various Companies,  1982-1983
    Box   3 F   13
    Kiddie Rides, Catalogs, Price Lists,  1982-1984
    Box   3 F   14
    Kipp Brothers, Inc., Importers and Wholesalers, 100th Anniversary Catalog,  1980
    Box   4 F   1
    Michigan Amusement Association, Correspondence, Materials re: Carnival-Amusement Safety Act of 1966 Revision, 1985-1987
    Box   4 F   2
    Michigan Amusement Association, First Annual Safety Seminar, Certificate, Correspondence, Notes, 1986
    Box   4 F   3
    Michigan Amusement Association, Formation Meeting Correspondence, 1985
    Box   4 F   4
    Michigan Annual Report-Profit Corporations, 1986
    Box   4 F   5
    Michigan Lions Club District 11-C, undated
    Box   4 F   6
    Midway Wholesale Co., Inc., Flier, 1987
    Box   4 F   7
    Mona Lake Boat Club, Membership List, Notes, 1978
    Box   4 F   8
    Musical Entertainment, Catalogs, 1984
    Box   4 F   9
    Muskegon, Optimist Club, Kelly-Miller Circus, Correspondence, Notes, Promotional Materials, 1984, 1987-1988
    Box   4 F   10
    Muskegon, Optimist Club, Sells and Gray Circus, Materials, 1974-1976
    Box   4 F   11
    National Carousel Association, Convention Materials, 1984
    Box   4 F   12
    National Roadshow Production, Centerville, Michigan, Forms, [1984]
    Box   4 F   13
    Norton Auctioneers, re: Sale of their (Genter's) Equipment, Correspondence, 1986
    Box   4 F   14
    Oriental Trading Co., Inc., Wholesale Catalogs, 1985-1987
    Box   4 F   15
    Outdoor Amusement Business Association, Inc., Correspondence, 1985-1987
    Box   5 F   1
    Paint, Catalogs, Price Lists, 1984-1986
    Box   5 F   2
    Pools, Other Equipment, Brochures, Fliers, 1982-1986
    Box   5 F   3
    Posters, Catalog, 1983
    Box   5 F   4
    Purchasing New Rides, Correspondence, 1986-1987
    Box   5 F   5
    Quality Farm and Fleet, Receipts, 1985
    Box   5 F   6
    Rand Materials Handling Equipment Company, Inc., Catalog, 1985
    Box   5 F   7
    Receipts, 1986
    Box   5 F   8
    Receipts, Miscellaneous, 1983-1986
    Box   5 F   9
    Rides, Brochures, Fliers, 1973-1987
    Box   5 F   10
    Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, Catalog, 1986
    Box   5 F   11
    Robert Schippers, Circus Related Materials for Sale, Lists 1-3, undated
    Box   5 F   12
    Robert Schippers, Circus Related Materials for Sale, Lists 4-6, undated
    Box   5 F   13
    Robert Schippers, Circus Related Materials for Sale, List 7, undated
    Box   6 F   1
    Sally Distributors, Wholesale Catalog, 1987
    Box   6 F   2
    Sara Glove Safety Products, Catalog, 1986
    Box   6 F   3
    Scott's Automotive, Muskegon, Receipts, 1985-1986
    Box   6 F   4
    Signs Unlimited, Catalog, 1985; Sign Receipts, 1985; IGC-Independent Graphics Corp., Fliers, 1985-1986
    Box   6 F   5
    Slam Bam, Fun Merchandise Corp., [Wholesale] Catalog, 1987
    Box   6 F   6
    State of Michigan. Handbook for Chauffer License and Classified Endorsements, 1984
    Box   6 F   7
    Tents, Fliers, 1979, 1985, undated
    Box   6 F   8
    Toby Tyler 3-Ring Circus, Promotional Materials, undated
    Box   6 F   9
    Train and Games Receipt, 1983; Inquiry, 1984, 1983-1984
    Box   6 F   10
    Transitory Food Unit License, 1986-1987
    Box   6 F   11
    Triangle Poster Company, Correspondence, Price List, Receipts, 1985-1986
    Box   6 F   12
    Trucks, Vans, Trailer, Correspondence, Catalogs, 1971, 1985-1986
    Box   6 F   13
    U.S. Toy Company, Inc., Wholesale Fund Raising Catalogs, 1985-1988
    Box   6 F   14
    Workers Compensation, Correspondence, Forms (General), 1986
    Box   7 F   1
    Route Lists, 1984-1987
    Box   7 F   2
    Allendale, Accounts, Daily Inspection Log, 1984
    Box   7 F   3
    Barryton County Fair and Homecoming, Receipts, Agreement, Correspondence, Daily Inspection Logs, 1985
    Box   7 F   4
    Blanchard, Millpond Madness, Receipts, Agreement, Inspection Logs, 1985
    Box   7 F   5
    Byron Center, Correspondence, Booking Agreement, 1986-1987
    Box   7 F   6
    Carson City, Frontier Days, Correspondence, Booking Agreement, 1986-1987
    Box   7 F   7
    Casnovia Sale-a-bration Day, Accounts, 1984; Correspondence, Inspection Logs, Receipts, 1987, 1984,1987
    Box   7 F   8
    Cedar Springs, Correspondence, 1987
    Box   7 F   9
    Comstock Park, Old Mill Creek Days, Correspondence, 1984
    Box   7 F   10
    Coopersville, Summer Fest, Accounts, Correspondence, 1984, 1986
    Box   7 F   11
    Dorr, Recreation Park, Correspondence, 1986
    Box   7 F   12
    Edmore, Potato Festival, Correspondence, 1986-1987
    Box   7 F   13
    Grand Rapids, Wolverine Building Products, Inc., Picnic, Material, 1986
    Box   7 F   14
    Grandville Mall, Accounts, 1984
    Box   7 F   15
    Greenville, Danish Festival, Accounts, 1984, Correspondence, 1986 1984, 1986
    Box   7 F   16
    Hersey, Correspondence, 1987
    Box   7 F   17
    Hersperia, Correspondence, Booking Agreement, 1987
    Box   7 F   18
    Holton, Accounts, 1983-1984
    Box   7 F   19
    Howell, Fall Fun Daze, Agreement, Receipts, 1985
    Box   7 F   20
    Kalkaska County Fair, Receipts, Agreement, Daily Inspections, Inspection Report, 1985
    Box   7 F   21
    Kent City, Chamber of Commerce, Receipts, Agreement, Correspondence, 1984-1985
    Box   7 F   22
    Luzerne, 4th of July Festival, Agreement, Correspondence, Receipts, 1985
    Box   8 F   1
    Marion, Fair, Receipts, Agreement, Inspection Reports, License, 1985
    Box   8 F   2
    Martin, Correspondence, 1986-1987
    Box   8 F   3
    Mulliken Homecoming, License, Receipts, Agreement, Inspection Logs, 1984
    Box   8 F   4
    Muskegon, Roosevelt Park Days, Correspondence, 1987
    Box   8 F   5
    Muskegon Heights Festival Committee, Meeting Minutes, June 1983; Correspondence, 1987, 1983, 1987
    Box   8 F   6
    Newago Logging Days Festival, Correspondence, Receipts, 1984-1985
    Box   8 F   7
    North Muskegon, Hackley Hospital's Children's Hospital Festival, Correspondence, Receipts, 1986-1987
    Box   8 F   8
    Northside Mall, North Muskegon, Accounts, 1984; Refusal, 1985; Correspondence, 1987, 1984-1985, 1987
    Box   8 F   9
    Oscoda County Fair Association, Inc., Correspondence, 1985
    Box   8 F   10
    Ottawa Hills High School Fundraiser, Booth Application, undated
    Box   8 F   11
    Petoskey, Traverse Bay Historic Festival, Accounts, 1984
    Box   8 F   12
    Riverdale, Lumberjack and Rivermen Festival, Form, 1985
    Box   8 F   13
    Rothbury, Accounts, 1984
    Box   8 F   14
    Shelby Sidewalk Days, Accounts, Correspondence, 1984
    Box   8 F   14
    Six Lakes, Dizzy Daze, Form, 1985
    Box   8 F   15
    Sparta Area Fair, Booking Agreement, Correspondence, 1987
    Box   8 F   16
    Trufant Jubilee, Correspondence, 1986-1987
    Box   8 F   17
    Twin Lake, Twin Lake Days, Accounts, 1984, undated
    Box   8 F   18
    Vestaburg, Old Timer Days, Accounts, 1984
    Box   8 F   19
    Walker/Standale, Memorial Day, Correspondence, 1984
    Box   8 F   20
    Walkerville, Accounts, 1984
    F   1  
    Oversized Folder of Circus/Carnival Posters/Window Cards (13), 1994, 2006, undated