Saturday, July 29, 2006 

Bowling Green, OH. 51 miles. Asphalt. Hot, humid.

Two day stand at the the Woodland Mall. Extreme heat and torrential rains have caused flooding in parts of Ohio, while other areas are a bit like a sauna. We've enjoyed great media coverage in Bowling Green, and it's always nice to play a mall.

Thursday, July 27, 2006 

Port Clinton, OH. 100 miles. Grass. Humid, rain. We are now in Ohio, pitched beside Lake Erie for a lot and license date before heading for Bowling Green. We have played beside four of the five Great Lakes, and in another week we will reach Pennsylvania, officially arriving in "the east." a very long way from the cactus country of Arizona with the highway sign for Los Angeles that we left behind some weeks ago. We will remain in the east into October.


Milford, MI. 95 miles. Grass lot. Overcast, humid. Enthusiatic well-organized, motivated local host gave us two great shows in this Detroit suburb and raised significant funds for their bike path project.

Manchester, MI. 56 miles. Grass. Humid, rain -- heavy at times.

Another pretty little town at the height of the midwestern summer. Barry and Nancy Miller came over from Ann Arbor for the second show. Always a pleasure to see troupers with sawdust in their veins in the box chairs.

Monday, July 24, 2006 

Marshall, MI. 47 miles. Grass. Sunny, humid. If there is a perfect small town in the classic middle western mode, someplace out of our collective imagination (oe Stephen King) it's Marshall. Disney couldn't have done a better job building a historic small town. Marshall isn't a circus town, Marshall is a magic town -- one time home to the Blackstone family, and a center for the creation of magic props and illusions. Tomorrow, suburban Detroit.

Sunday, July 23, 2006 

St Johns, MI 76 miles. Grass. Rain.

Lansing, MI. 47 miles. Asphalt. Two days at the Union Baptist Church. Wonderful hosts who put together a fantastic worship service inside the bigtop on Sunday.


For several days now the news has reported on the death of an elephant handler at a “sanctuary” in Tennessee. The elephant involved in the tragedy came from a midwestern zoo and had a history of “problems.” The handler had no real elephant experience outside of the “sanctuary.” Anyone who works with elephants is appalled when another handler is killed or injured by an elephant. In today’s circuses elephants are carefully screened for temperament before they are ever taken on the road. There is no place for a “problem” elephant under the bigtop. That said, the incident in Tennessee raises disturbing questions about the non-traditional approach taken in elephant management both at the Tennessee facility and at a similar facility in California. This approach places little emphasis on socialization and discounts the need for a hierarchical structure in elephant management. Simply put in failing to set behavioral standards, handlers in these sanctuaries increase the likelihood for accidents. Questions arise as to whether these are really proper facilities for the placement of elephants. If any good can come from tragedy, it may be that we finally ask the hard questions as to what really qualifies a “sanctuary” to “rescue” elephants.

Thursday, July 20, 2006 


Midland, MI. 25 miles. Grass lot. Perfect weather. Two days on a beautiful fairgrounds. Generally good business.

St Johns, MI 76 miles. Grass. Rain.

Monday, July 17, 2006 

Mt Pleasant. MI 62 miles grass lot. Very hot, humid

Our first triple digit temperatures since Arizona. Jim Elliot came by today. Nice crowd for the first show, then the storms hit taking down the pony top. Tornado sirens after that. All-clear sounded in time for the evening show but the weather put a damper on attendance.

Sunday, July 16, 2006 

Grayling, MI. 98 miles. Grass lot. Sunny, humid.

Cadillac, MI. 74 miles. Grass lot. Hot, humid.

Moving slowly in the direction of Lansing where we’ll play for several days next weekend. Ten days from now we’ll jump into Ohio, where the mid-west meets the east, then the eastern seaboard states where we’ll shoe through October. Early in the season all that lies ahead is summer. In summer it’s easy to forget all of the miles and the towns that made up the spring.

Friday, July 14, 2006 

Petoskey, MI 45 miles. Dirt lot. Hot.

Sad news from Florida where it’s reported that Fred Logan has passed away. Coming out of Canada as a young man in the 1940’s, Mr. Logan went on to become a fixture on circuses in the 1950’s through 1990’s managing and presenting cats, then elephants. His long career on circuses like the Al G Kelly-Miller Circus, and the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus made him one of the best known elephant men in the country and perhaps the last presenter worthy of the honorific “Captain.” We will all miss him.

Alpena, MI. 110 miles. Dirt lot. Hot. Humid.

Nearly two weeks ago our Parts Buyer Robert Rader went into hospital in Wisconsin and was immediately transferred to a larger facility to the south in Green Bay. Days of testing followed. Today Robert is scheduled for open heart surgery. Post surgery, when he is able to travel he will going home to Hugo, OK for further recovery. Ideally he hopes to rejoin the show sometime in the Fall. Robert is in our thoughts today. Also in our thoughts, we are half way through the season. The price of diesel continues to punish every circus on the road this year, while the price of gasoline adds an additional burden to every household and eats away at dollars that might otherwise be spent on entertainment, like a bigtop show. When travel by rail became logistically difficult and prohibitively expensive circuses moved to trucks. In seasons to come we move to smaller trucks, like European shows? Will fuel prices lead to the next evolution in the traditional circus? Maybe. Like the bellweather seasons of the early to mid-1950’s it’s probably fair to say that the next model suggesting what circus will be for a generation to come is somewhere just around the corner.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006 

Cheboygan, MI 25 miles. Grass lot. Perfect circus weather.

Traditionally when two circuses play nearby there is a bit of visiting back and forth. In St Ignace several people from the Bailey Bros Circus made the drive to visit Carson & Barnes, and today the shows are barely twenty miles apart. For better or worse Michigan is rich in circuses this season, and we find ourselves the third show in town in the last month, with some communities anticipating even more shows as the summer progresses. Great news for circus fans, a little tough when you are number three and trying to fill the bigtop. We have crossed the straits from the U.P. into northern Michigan. In a few weeks we will move toward Ohio.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006 

Still difficult to make an internet connection.


Munising, MI 57 miles. Asphalt lot. Overcast, wet, cold.

Manistique MI 47 miles. Grass lot. Overcast, cold.

We have moved from Lake Superior back down to Lake Michigan as we head south and east toward Lower Michigan

St. Ignace MI. 90 miles. Gravel lot. Overcast. Cool. On the shores of Lake Huron, we will cross the Straits tomorrow leaving the Upper Penninsula.

Saturday, July 08, 2006 

We have finally gone too far north for the satellites. Internet spotty.

Norway, Michigan. 72 miles. Grass lot. Weather cool.

Hancock, MI. 131 miles. Fairgrounds. Gravel lot. Warm. We’re the third circus to visit Houghton/Hancock this season. Surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior, this is as far north as we will travel this season.

Ishpeming, MI 90 miles. Grass lot. Perfect circus weather.

Nick Adams at 104
Sits most days
In the 4th floor
Rec at Regional V.A.
Staring out across the white hot
Florida parking lot
Toward Upper Peninsula Michigan.

Ernest Hemingway, a self-styled circus lover and of the greatest of American writers chose the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as the backdrop for his coming of age stories chronicling the life of a character he called Nick Adams. A Century age, during Hemingway’s own childhood for midwesterners Upper Michigan represented wilderness in a world where there was no longer a western frontier. The Upper Peninsula was a land of vast forests and wetlands, lakes, and rivers and hunting camps, and logging towns. Further to the east the same wilderness attributes sent New Yorkers north to the Adirondack Mountains. Hemingway’s The Nick Adams Stories remain mystical in their power to evoke a genetic memory of the past when we all knew the forests and wondered what we might find beyond the next bend in the creek. Driving the narrow roads of the U.P. through woodlands of birch and pine the ghost of Nick Adams still haunts a land that remains very much wild, and Nick Adams is all of us, as rooted here on these trout streams as Norman Maclean’s characters remain rooted to the big waters in Montana in the other great coming of age in the wilderness story that marks 20th Century literature, A River Runs Through It.
What does any of this have to do with circus? If circus as we like to say conjures up recollections of childhood it’s worth remembering that other great magics also conjure up childhood, perhaps none more so than the wild places. Circus has always followed the frontier. Circus has always come to these wild places. We can only hope that it always will.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006 


Oconto, WI. Jump 67 miles. Sand lot. Weather mild.

While in Oshkosh the circus was set up next to an actual circus sideshow. Sideshows were once a famous part of the circus midway. In the 1940's and 1950's circus stopped displaying Human Oddities is sideshows, relinquishing such attractions to the world of cranival, where they flourished for another thirty years. By the late 1970's many circuses gave up the sideshow business entirely, replacing them with stand alone "grind shows" or "pit shows" like our own giant snakes. As pit shows have become less of a money maker it might be argued that it's time for a successful circus to try reinventing the sideshow with it's colorful banner line, but to date that hasn't happened.

Monday, July 03, 2006 

Here in Oshkossh the summer is warm and humid and almost impossibly green. Some circuses are framed to play the occasional fair or carnival, for shows like ours accustomed to moving almost every day the novelty of the carnival midway wears off on the third day. At our best we are the main attraction in every town that we play. On the back end of a carnival midway we are seemingly too big for the short attention spans of a crowd focused on five minute thrill rides and sugar dusted Belgian waffles.


Sunday, July 02, 2006 

Oshkosh WI 60 miles. Grass lot.

This is our second day at Sawdust Days, a large festival in Oshkosh. Day one was muggy and overcast, wet and rainy with a threat of severe weather. Attendance at the circus was sparse. We are here for four days. A break in the weather should be coming.