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Send In The Clowns! September 4, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Animals, Art & Photography, Travel & Leisure.
43 comments

On Friday, we toured Cà d’Zan ~ the winter estate of John and Mabel Ringling (of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame).

Cà d’Zan translates literally as House of John ~ a rather prosaic name in English which becomes both exquisite and elegant when wrapped in an Italian accent.

After marveling at the splendor of Cà d’Zan, we toured the Circus Museums.

At the Tibbals Circus Museum, clowns and acrobats greeted us at the door.

We spent an hour mesmerized by the Howard Bros. Miniature Circus which covers over 3800 square feet:

The Howard Bros. Circus, complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 57-car train, is on permanent display in the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center.  

The Howard Bros. Circus is a ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when the tented circus was at its largest (circa 1919-1938), and occupies 3,800 square feet in the 30,600 sq. ft.-Tibbals Learning Center. 

The “largest miniature circus in the world” was created over a 50-year time span by master model builder and philanthropist Howard C. Tibbals of Tennessee and Florida.

The display (which took 15 months to set up on site) portrays the massive logistics involved in setting up and taking down a circus . . . including a Big Top seating 15,000 . . . every day.

Wikipedia ~ Howard Bros. Circus (in Public Domain)

In addition to setting up tents, hundreds of working and performance animals needed to be unloaded and fed . . . hungry cats are onery.

The Flying Squadron would arrive at the railroad station at 3 am and head to the Circus Grounds so that the commissary and “Hotel” (food tent) would be ready to serve breakfast to 1,300 performers and workers by 6 a.m.

The rest of the circus followed behind the Flying Squadron in Pullman cars and Circus Wagons carried via flat bed railroad cars.

We enjoyed the Circus timeline . . . and learned, to our surprise, that clowns have been around since ancient Egypt.

We also learned that P.T. Barnum collected calling cards in his home with a rather grotesque statuary depicting a blind (and apparently rabid) monkey.

We had a great time and plan to head back on Museum Day to see the opening of the new 25,000 square foot exhibit.

The Greatest Show on Earth ain’t over . . . until the Fat Lady sings!

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