“Ladies and gentleman! Boys and Girls! Children of all ages! The Big Top is still in town if you live in Sarasota. Step right in!”
What a marvel of a museum we have here on the grounds of the Ringling. One of the many buildings and exhibits, the Ringling Circus Museum offers plenty of treats: circus history, interactive exhibits, vintage footage and posters, modern videos, costumes, clown cars, and a detailed replica of the entire circus in miniature, all hand-crafted by one man, Howard Tibbals.
The Tibbals’ exhibit is spell-binding. He captures the combination of the sights and sounds of the circus, with vivid colors and the subtle background sounds of elephants roaring, trains rumbling, and ringmasters pitching. The exhibit details all the work involved in the early 20th century traveling shows, from the box cars loaded with animals to the amount of food prepared for the hundreds of workers to the effort it took to raise the tents. The center attraction, known at the Big Top, was larger than a football field, and Tibbals’s replica gives the viewer full perspective.
We watched acts by aerialists, trapeze artists, clowns, jugglers, lions, and bearded ladies. We even learned how clowns apply their make-up. The most interesting tidbit I picked up was that centrifugal force in the rings allowed bareback riders to maintain their balance. Who knew?
My friends and I had a blast attempting to walk on tight-ropes, shoot “people” out of cannons, and ride bareback (on a stationary horse), all in a safe setting.
The circus is a magical place where reality is suspended, hyperbole reigns, and the spectacular show “softens the wrinkles of sorrow.” The sounds of the calliope bellowing or the monkey grinder shilling sent me straight back to childhood memories. The Circus Museum is “AMAZING!” “MOST DANGEROUS!” and “THRILLING!” — exactly as the ringmasters promised.
The Sarasota Spectator
Our Sarasota Spectator is Betsy Miller, a retired high school teacher and college professor. Originally from Columbus, Betsy has fallen in love with the Gulf Coast of Florida, especially Sarasota. Blogging about the area has been a creative outlet for the writer, opening up an avenue of exploration. You may find the bon vivant enjoying happy hour at a tiki bar, shopping on historic Main Street, or seated at a concert or show at a local theater. Chances are you also might find her buried in a book on one of our beautiful beaches. Asked to give one word about her feelings for Sarasota, Betsy replied, “Smitten.”