Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The First of May in the Middle of June!

A few months ago the kids and I watched the delightful family film The First of May, titled after the name given someone in his/her first year with the circus. Last Friday we had the chance to see what it's really all about under the big top as we visited Circus World Museum in Baraboo!

This was my third trip to Circus World. I went there in 1983 as a seventh grader, and then a decade later as a seventh grade teacher. What is it about being a parent that really opens up your eyes to the details, the wonder of a place you've already been?

Imagine. It's 1884 and, after years of entertaining friends and neighbors in your backyard, you start a circus with 4 of your brothers. You hire a few performers, buy a few animals, and get a loan from the local bank. That's the story of the Al Ringling and his brothers!

After a few years of struggle, bad weather, and overdue loans, you finally have a break-through. Thirty years pass by, and you are buying out the biggest circus in the country!

Little did you know that, nearly a hundred years later, your calliope is still running and lighting up children's eyes with its magical animals, motion, and music!

Along the way, you hired some very colorful characters to be part of your sideshow.

Funny thing is, the Painted Lady (2nd from left) would be "no big deal" by 21st Century standards. (Were there tattoo parlors back in your day?)

Thank goodness the twins in the front are NOT Siamese!!

Along with concession stands, rides, and parades, you knew that sideshows were just as important as the Big Top (Hippodrome). Talented illusionists cut ladies in half, and they're still boggling audiences 125 years later!

Yes, Mr. Ringling, you would be very proud of how far your show has come. The performers are hardworking, super-talented contortionists, jugglers, acrobats, rope climbers, animal trainers, and magicians. The Baraboo National Bank is still a big supporter, and people come from around the world to work in AND witness your circus.

The hippodrome (big top) still puts on fantastic shows every day, May through October, and the elephant rides the sphere just inches away from thrilled (and scared!) spectators!

Some things have changed, for certain. I doubt that you charged $5 for people to ride your elephant for one minute. (No, I don't know these people. I just thought I'd take a picture of $30!)

Here's the Siegert version of the elephant ride. Still good for some smiles :) at a much cheaper rate!

Some parts of the circus are a bit bawdy...but still draw all ages together. (Funny how you take a picture and don't notice the little details until days later, huh Cy?!)

Yes, some things have changed, Al, but one thing stays the same: "the greatest show on earth" is still a darn good time.

The sights, the sounds, the textures...

Thanks for dreaming, Mr. Ringling! And as they say under the big top, "May all your days be CIRCUS days!"

With God all things are posssible.--Matthew 19:26


Blogger Astrid @ The Lopsided House said...

I had no idea the Ringling Circus was from Wisconsin! Guess we really need to make a stop there some day to visit....that first photo had Mark and I cracking up!

June 23, 2010 at 12:18 PM  

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