The Incredible Astounding Circus!

We interrupt the regular feature of Tall Tale Tuesday to announce that the circus is in town!

Last Saturday, a small-time circus came to our small-time town in Iowa. They set up two red and yellow striped rings in our little county fair shed. The elephant’s head scraped the rafters, which made her look even more unreal. The juggler’s batons weaved in and out of the beams, which made the crowd ooo and ahhh even more. And the trapeze artist could have kissed the roof. The small venue made the performer’s feats even more larger than life.

At the height of the circus’ popularity, aka, when there was no Hollywood (around 1900-1920) there were more than 200 traveling circus wandering through the country giving performances.

Now, there’s no more than a handful.

Live shows just aren’t sought after anymore. If you can see an elephant or dog show or motorcycle tricks on YouTube, no need to pay $16 and see real ones.

But the thing about YouTube is, you can’t smell the sawdust or taste the cotton candy and dirt in the air. You can’t watch open mouthed with a hundred other people as the contortionists shoots a bow and arrow with her feet. And when the clown comes onstage . . . there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t gasping, snorting, giggling, gaffawing by the time he tripped over his big shows and exited the arena.

Circus’ aren’t just a sensual experience, they’re a communal one.

I liked seeing what went on backstage almost as much as what went on in the ring. Hard workers, those roustabouts!

You can see the sweat on the performer’s brow. Your heart beats faster when the tigers roar because you know they could kill you if they got loose. Your stomach is in your throat as you watch the acrobats flip around in the air like a bouncy ball because you can almost feel their pulse and adrenalin and strength. And when the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, the elegant ringmaster, looks you in the eye and bows, you feel a part of her show.

YouTube just can’t give you that.

Feats of death defying magnitude!

The most beautiful woman in the world!

Wonders beyond your imagination!

You’ve never seen anything like it!

 Also, if you’re interested in seeing the circus and learning about the performer’s and worker’s lives, I recommend these two phenomenal documentaries. One is particularly helpful in solving the performing animal’s rights dilemma.

 A great look into the Rosaire circus family and about how they treat their circus animals…

Not only an exciting peek behind the curtains, also an enthralling human drama. I highly recommend this documentary!

So Have You Been To A Circus?

If all the circus’ in the US go under, have we lost something of value?

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27 Comments

  1. How strange. I too visited a circus last weekend…only it was miniature! http://barrycreative.wordpress.com/ People truly are fascinated by any kind of circus performers I agree.

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      Circus performers are magical and brave and remind us what humans can do.

      Reply
  2. I love going to the circus, but it has been a while now since I’ve gone. The high wire acts always made me so nervous. The last show I saw was Ringling Bros. and they had the motorcycles in a cage. Insane!

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      I’ve never seen the Ringling Bros but I’d love to one day.

      Reply
  3. Very cool. I went to the circus a few times as a kid — one good one and one pitiful small time one that my mom later apologized for, but we both laughed about it. The magic of the circus has definitely waned, but it’s cool for a taste of nostalgia. I like reading Water for Elephants and The Night Circus for a taste of the old (and magical) circus experience.

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      I liked those two books, too. Next best thing to going to a real circus. :)

      Reply
  4. When I was a kid, going to the circus was a big deal – and that was actually after they invented movies. The local Shriners have been hosting a circus in Fort Worth for more decades than I can remember. It’s always been held at Will Rogers Coliseum rather than in a tent. Don’t know if that affects the atmosphere or not.

    So far as I know, they still put this circus on every year. It’s locally sponsored, but I think the circus itself is Ringling Brothers.

    Reply
  5. malindalou

     /  July 17, 2012

    I loved the circus as a kid and still love it now. Although, I am now more into Cirque Du Soliel than I am the traditional circus. And I agree that as great as YouTube is, it will never be as awesome as going to see a live show. I would also add that seeing a movie just isn’t as good as seeing a live theater performance, even though the later often costs more.

    Reply
    • malindalou

       /  July 17, 2012

      *former costs more

      Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      Live performances are so special and a true “experience” that will always be cooler than a 2-D experience, although both are fun the live experience will always be special.

      Reply
  6. I don’t like seeing such magestic animals as Elephants being lowered to a circus. Here in the UK it’s actually illegal to have most animals as part of a circus. I can’t complain about some of the acts in them though-some of what they do is amazing.

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      I’d rather see domesticated animals like horses and dogs perform instead of wild ones, which is how the circus’ began. But some circus’ treat their animal performers with just as much respect as their human performers and I respect that.

      Reply
  7. I haven’t been to a circus since I was a kid, but I love going to Cirque du Soleil (I know, totally different!). You’re absolutely right about the sounds and smells of a circus. I can recall them even now, many years later.

    Reply
  8. I have mixed feelings about circuses, but there’s no denying they are all-American. I’d be sad to see them go, just as I’ve been sad to see video arcades and county fairs slowly die off.

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      What gives you mixed feelings about them? The animal performers?

      Reply
      • Yeah, I just worry about the animals receiving proper care. I’m not really in favor of wild animals doing tricks for people’s amusement and prefer non-animal circuses. But I don’t have too much of a problem if they are cared for the right way.

        Reply
  9. I love the idea of circuses, but I’ve heard mixed things about how they treat animals. Any insight?? Regardless, I love that elephant photo. :) Some of the coolest animals, hands (trunks) down.

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      Elephants are terrific animals.
      I’ve heard there are some circus’ that abuse their animal performers. Also, some animal activists believe NO animals should be made to perform. I believe humans can and should partner with animals, even in entertainment. As long as they treat the partnership with respect.

      Reply
  10. Oh Ellie, how did you miss this post of mine? I promise you great history about the circus and exceptional laughter:

    http://jesswitkins.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/jess-takes-on-circus-world/

    Having posted that for you, I still love the circus and will absolutely look for both those documentaries. I think it’s really fascinating! Baraboo, Wisconsin houses the Circus World Museum with the largest collection of old circus wagons. It’s the winter grounds of the Ringling Bros. circus. Really cool, if you get the chance to visit, your kids would love it!

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      It’s so fascinating. I loved your post!! You give such great commentary. I’d love to visit the museum sometime.

      Reply
  11. My wife and I have had the good fortune to catch the “Culpepper & Merriweather Circus” a couple of times in a small town near our home. It’s very small, and I think mostly family. But it was delightful. They had a lion and a tiger (no bear, oh, my), some trained dogs, and some horses. There was juggling, acrobatics, just about everything that a large circus would have. Great fun!

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 18, 2012

      A large number of small circus’ are family. It seems like a family business–one you’re born into.

      Reply
  12. I did take my nephews to a circus local to me once – I was probably more disappointed than they were at the absence of animals, though I figured it was probably on humane grounds. Will have to watch those documentaries, but like you, I feel some animals enjoy performing and ‘having a job’…it’s just a question of how they are treated in the process.

    Reply
  13. I haven’t been to the Circus since I was kid. The clowns always terrified me.

    Reply

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