Wednesday, June 25, 2008 

Wednesday June 25th, 2008. Berkley, MA. 69 miles. Warm Grass lot.

Live music from Boston area fans of circus music at the shows today. I gather these windjammers have played with Big Apple in the past. In Berkley we are crowded on to the old Village Common, the parks that make some small New England towns so pretty. Hard not to imagine Longfellow’s village smithy set up on the edge of the common. Have been thinking about Barnum’s FeeGee Mermaid today. Barnum sold the mermaid tale to his museum going public in New York as a story of adventure and romace from the South Seas. The gaffed “mermaid” was in fact probably the head, torso, and arms and paws of a small monkey stitched to the body of a fish. The Japanese created such oddities in the 18th & 19th Centuries. Despite his claims to the contrary, Barnum wasn’t the first to display his particular mermaid. It was first exhibited in a popular museum here in Boston. Today a number of sideshows display mermaids. Brent DeWitt has one on the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus midway billed as “The Strangest Thing You’ve Ever Seen.” Looks a bit like one of the great gaffs built in Southern California by Doug Higley.

Rumor has it that based on advancved ticket sales, Kelly Miller will continue to do good business here in Mass over the next couple days. Looks like short jumps through the end of the week.


Tuesday June 24th, 2008. Littleton, MA. 35 miles. Grass. Warm, then storms.

Boston suburb inside the 495 belt. The graveyard lists the names in Revolutionary War dead. We are near Concord where Henry Thoreau lived for a time by Walden Pond. Near Lowell, birthplace of Jack Kerouac whose novel On the Road sent a generation in the 1960’s and 1970’s hitch-hiking across America. Some of those travels found a place in circus. Good ticket sales. Heavy rain during the early show.


Monday Jun 23rd, 2008. Mendon, MA. 40 miles. Grass. Warm. Rain.

John Ringling North II rejoins the show. Strong pre-sale. Two full shows.


Sunday Jun 22nd, 2008. Spencer, MA. 78 miles. Grass. Humid, hot.

Late arriving on the lot in Spencer. I’m driving the shop truck with the mechanic, and the generator truck needed repair before leaving yesterday'’ town. Two early shows today. In Amherst the show was arrowed right across the campus. Bucolic might be the best word to describe it, but then so much of New England is picturesque, why did anyone ever move west beyond New York?


Saturday June 21st, 2008. Cummington, MA. 90 miles. Grass. Warm.

Long jump through the Berkshires from the Hudson up into the mountains to Stockbridge and Pittsfield and finally to the small fairgrounds where we are playing a lot and license date to sparse crowds. Half my ancestors are buried in these mountains between Canaan CT and Salisbury, VT. Do they wonder on this the Solstice how high the corn stands in the rocky fields? How deep the snows will lay come winter? I doubt they dream of the brightly painted circus trucks snaking over their mountains. Even in summer there is chill to the morning air, with fog in the valleys. Small farms offer fresh cherries and maple sugar. Today is a stop intended only to break up the jump into eastern MA . We will return to the Berkshires in several weeks.

Friday, June 20, 2008 

Shows in Cairo, NY today at 4:30 and 7:30. Tomorrow up into the Berkshires to begin two weeks in the Bay State entering and exiting near Pittsfield.

Thursday, June 19, 2008 

Thurs June 19th, 2008 Washingtonville, NY. 20 miles. Grass lot.

Well into the Hudson River Valley now as we head toward New England. We will return to Upstate New York in a few weeks. Yesterday’s rain was a warm summer rain falling from the thunderheads that are famous in the Catskills. Crowds were modest but not bad. On the lot this morning police wanted to know about tranquilizer gun and high powered rifle to control elephants and tigers. I politely explained that such weapons were unnecessary in all but a few states. Leaving the show for two days to travel to Washington, DC and Maryland to take care of some unfinished circus business. Should rejoin the show in Cairo, NY on Friday night.


Wed June 18th, 2008 Greenwood Lake, NY. 40 miles (28 on the route card) Grass lot. Cooler, overcast.

And so we’re in the heart of it, the countryside between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River, between Albany and New York, the cradle of the American Circus from whence the Mr Bailey or Somers went forth with his elephant Old Bet, or the men from Brewster pitched their first circus tents, or a boy named Barnum from Bethel, CT found a job as a ticket seller on a wagon show. The ghosts of circuses past live here in abundance, reminding us that we are not alone in this crazy attempt to fight the mud and the weather and to entertain.


Tuesday June 17th. Pequannock, NJ. 40 miles. Grass lot. Perfect circus weather.

In the 1870’s when Mr. Coup and Mr Barnum opened their first big circus the show played in Brooklyn, and New York, and ferried across the Hudson River to play the New Jersey towns as the circus wagons fought the mud and weather and aimed for Philadelphia. It was a long season, and in future years the Barnum show would move on the rails. The Kelly Miller Circus can play the suburbs of Philadelphia one afternoon, and the jump through the metro traffic to play the northern New Jersey suburbs of New York a few days later. Our own long season covers miles that no wagon show saw in a decade.

Monday, June 16, 2008 

Basking Ridge, NJ. 55 miles. Hot, muggy. We jumped into a tight lot behind the Elks Lodge on Sunday morning to share a two day stand with the Sunshine Amusements Carnival. First day was light business for the carnival and the circus alike. Lot's too tight for camel rides etc., and elephant rides were competing with mechanical rides. Animal department split up to fit onto the lot, giving intoxicated carnival patron a chance to try to mingle with the elephants on one side of the lot in the wee hours, or ride ponies, show horses, and camels on the other. Fortunately Casey Cainan's tigers were tucked away in the back yard down the street.

We remain here again today with hsows at 4:30 & 7:30

Saturday, June 14, 2008 

Day Two in Plumsteadville, PA. Hot weather. Strong business last night. Jump tomorrow to Basking Ridge, NJ. 50 miles. Sharing lot with a carnival. Some possibility we may make the move tonight.

Friday, June 13, 2008 

Joined teh wonderful Kelly Miller Circus in Beachwood, NJ on the last day of the eastern heat wave. John Ringling North II's show really does appear to be the "best of breed" this season. A mudshow with all of the magic of the old and charm of the new.

Thurs 6/12 Pembroke, NJ 35 mile jump to grass lot. Warm, but not wilting.

Frid 61/13 Plumsteadville, PA 65 mile jump to grass lot. Sunny, warm. We're here for two days in Eastern PA north of Philly. Tight lot behind the Fire Station. Driving the shop truck and hauling seat wagon. Mechanic on the show is Castro, a Columbian I worked with on Carson & Barnes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 

Eastern Heatwave Heatwave toasting the eastern seaboard from southern New England to Carolinas continues. For a circus in NewJersey, today in Beachwood the high will be 97 degrees F. Heat index is much higher. The good news is that the heat will slack tomorrow, by about ten degrees. And temperatures will return to "normal" on Thursday with highs in the 70's and low 80's.

Heat, flooding in the upper midwest, tornadoes in the prairie states, a wild week at the tail end of spring. And yes, it is still spring. As bad as the weather has been for circuses since the first shows opened in March -- constantly dogged by storms, and winds, and high water, and mud -- it's been all that much worse for other folks. Cornfields in Indiana still planted, homes from Arkansas to Wisconsin literally drowned in four months of wet. But the heat shall pass, and the wet shall pass, the snows in Colorado finally melt, and it will be summer. Circuses will move on to tomorrow's town.

Saturday, June 07, 2008 

Resumption of Mudshow Blog

Should be back to periodic blogging later this week. The show? Mr North's Kelly Miller Circus under the management of Jim Royal.


A few words on the Great Elephant Breakout on Culpepper & Merriweather that's been much in the news. As reported the elephants took off in the midst of a major storm and in reaction to tornado sirens and an inflatable slide torn from its mooring by the wind. All's well that ends well.