Just call it the play-line tour: Bus offers parties on wheels

September 03, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

On most school buses, children are encouraged to sit down and be quiet.

Not so on the "Fun Bus."

Bruce and Holly Penn have converted a school bus into a mini-playground on wheels, available -- for $165 an hour -- to delight children across metropolitan Baltimore.

The fun features include a ball-crawl area, beanbag toss, slides, an obstacle course, a mini-golf course, basketball hoops and a mini-trampoline.

"I have like a competition thing going with my cousins trying to give the best parties for our kids," said Tuesday McLeod of Randallstown, who rented the bus to help celebrate her daughter Genni's first birthday. "Everybody loved it, and I guess I topped them because they are still talking about it and recommending the bus to their co-workers who have kids."

The traveling amusement area is air-conditioned and heated. A slogan painted on the side of the purple-and-white bus promises to "bring the fun to you."

The $165 pays for one hour of supervised playtime and goodie bags for 15 to 18 children.

The bus has been rented for birthdays, company picnics and even a wedding reception where the couple wanted to provide entertainment for their guests' children.

Business is booming, the Penns said, and they estimate that about 8,600 children have partied on the bus so far this year.

"We do very little advertising because word of mouth has been so great," said Bruce Penn, a mortgage banker who helps out on the bus with the Ellicott City couple's two sons and a few teen-age helpers. "People just love the bus."

Two years ago, Holly Penn -- who teaches gymnastics at day care centers through her company, Gym Around Inc. -- was looking for a bus to convert into a gym on wheels to hold classes.

While thinking of possible activities, she and her husband hit upon the idea of restructuring a bus to provide a fun and safe area for children to play, she said.

"Everything is bonk-proof," she said. "We always have someone on the bus with the kids and make sure everything is safe for them."

When Ohmeda of Columbia held a company picnic in Patapsco Valley State Park recently, the Fun Bus was brought in to entertain employees' children.

"The kids loved it," said Brigitte Nash, human resources safety representative for the infant-care medical equipment manufacturing plant, who booked the bus for the picnic. "My son's birthday is coming up," she said, "and I'm going to surprise him and his friends with the bus."

Betty Faux happened upon the bus at the Towsontown Festival in May and booked it for daughter Tiffany's sixth birthday two weeks ago. It was the easiest party she's ever thrown, Faux said.

"We've done Chuck E. Cheese; we've done bowling parties; and last year we had a clown who didn't hold the kids' attention," Faux said. "The Fun Bus was on time, the children were very well supervised and everything went off like clockwork."

The day also was a success for Tiffany, who found six small toy animals hidden strategically around the bus in a hunt-and-find game.

"We got to play in the balls, and the man hid stuff so we could find it," Tiffany said. "It was a lot of fun."

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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