Thursday, September 11, 2008 

September 10th, 2008. Dixon, IL. Cool, clear.

Cold morning!

Blog break. No updates for the next week or so.


September 9th, 2008. Dixon, IL. 45 miles. Grass. Cool.

Half way between Chicago and Davenport, IA. We’ll turn back toward Chicago after a two day stand here. This is the birthplace of Ronald Reagan. Interesting both U.S. Grant and Ronald Reagan were IL natives who weren’t associated with IL when they went on to the White House. Lincoln on the other hand was born in Indiana but is clearly identified with IL. Dixon is a lot and license date.

Cool autumn day with small towns touting orchards and cider mills and corn mazes. 6AM call, but the pole truck had a bad starter and it was nearly 9AM when it finally got off yesterday’s lot.


September 8th, Sycamore, IL. 40 miles. Grass/Gravel/Dirt. Cool, overcast, rain.

Made night jump into Speedway in Sycamore for a lot and license back out in the countryside.

ADDENDUM: Cold steady rain. Calendar has come full circle. This feels like a miserable day in Texas in early March. Lot quickly turning to mud and standing water. With no sponsor, and as we are well outside of town business apt to be light.

Addendum – Better turn out than we dared expect given the weather


September 7th, Itasca, IL. 10 miles. Asphalt/Grass. Cool.

Two shows. Strong sales.


September 5th and 6th , 2008. Glendale Heights, IL. 24 miles. Grass. Overcast. Cool – feels like autumn.

Jumped last night out of the mud onto an asphalt parking lot. Spotted the show when the danger of rain was over. Two day stand in Glendale Heights. Excellent business anticipated. Famed lion presenter Larry Allen Dean visited today.

Food for thought I suppose. Mr. Cainan notes that once upon a time show owners sought out the best, the most unique, the most awe inspiring acts in the world for their particular show – and nobody asked if they could drive a truck.

The show itself was the brand. That’s a notion that still exists watching some Cirque productions, or various editions of Big Apple – but it’s not seen on many mudshows. Mudshow managers would probably argue correctly that the issue is economics.

Savvy marketers might counter with a product like “circus” that you build a “brand” on excellence.

When was the last time that a “mudshow” tried to brand itself by being simple the best? Not the biggest, or the oldest, or the show with the most elephants. Hiring acts simple because they were phenomenal, not because one family or another was affordable and looking for work? Could a tent boss like Capt. Bill Curtis – one of the great geniuses of modern circus even work on a show today? He spoke no language but English and he didn’t have dozens of friends or neighbors or cousins who would work for him in low wage jobs. Was Cliff Vargas the last guy who actually raised the bar and wanted that kind of excellence? Is that why the name “Vargas” is still remembered so fondly so many years after his death? Other mudshow tycoons may be recalled and beloved by circus fans, but not by the public for whom “Vargas” still means “circus.” When President Jimmy Carter was original seeking office his question resonated – Why not the best? Why do we look for anything else? Why not the best tiger trainers, the best clowns, the best lot bosses, or aerialists, or acrobats? (And I should note that I’m not the best anything.) How many of the problems associated with traditional circuses today are rooted in the notion that shows can “get by” with what is easily available and leave greatness to somebody else? This by no means is meant to imply that that anyone working on any show isn’t talented, or skilled or dedicated. But there will always be degrees of excellence. If a circus, any circus isn’t “fresh” with new faces and new acts whenever it comes to town is it any wonder that the audience thinks, “I’ve seen all that before.”

Kelly Miller is the best traditional show on the road this season. It’s a good circus. Down the road can it raise the bar and really become “America’s One-Ring Wonder?” Absolutely. And it would be nice to think that it will.


September 4th, 2008. Berwyn, IL. 20 miles. Grass. Cool. Heavy rains.

Jumped last night through the Chicagoland traffic to the lot in Berwyn. Heavy rain anticipated today as what remains of Hurricane Gustav passes through. Traditionally this is a very good town.

Walking through town last night I spotted a banner proclaiming the 100th Anniversary of Berwyn. Couldn’t help but think that 1oo years ago Chicago wasn’t just America’s “Second City” it rivaled New York as the intellectual and artistic capitol. In 1908 Frank Lloyd Wright was designing and building houses here. Hemingway was a boy living in the suburbs and spending summer in Michigan. Clarence Darrow was the brightest legal mind of his generation. Politically modern Conservativism owes much to University of Chicago, while the modern left owes an equal debt to the social movements born here. The Field Museum is among the best Natural History centers in the country, and the Art Institute among the great collections of paintings. Chicago had two world class zoos – still good zoos. Vaudeville thrived in Chicago and circus acts wintered here working in theaters after the big shows closed and went home to Wisconsin and Indiana. A couple generation later the Polack Bros operation settled in Chicago, and the Shrine Circus here showcased the very best in the business. These days the annual Universoul Circus Chicago run is a cultural touchstone in its own way as impressive as the Big Apple Circus during it’s Manhattan run.

We may get wet today, but we couldn’t ask for a better place to be sitting than Chicagoland.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 

Sept 3rd, 2008.

We remain in Midlothian. Jumping out this evening for tomorrow's town. No shows today. Weather forecast for tomorrow predicts high winds and rain from what was once Hurricane Gustav

Tuesday, September 02, 2008 

September 2nd, 2008. Midlothian, IL. 19 miles. Asphalt. Very hot.

First Chicagoland date. We jumped in last night, show today then layover here tomorrow. Forecast is for temps in the 90’s with storms tonight, then cooling. Could be the last really hot weather of the season. Congratulations to Armando Loyal who will be leaving for 24 hours to make a quick trip home to Hugo to close on a house. Buying a house is a major event for anybody.


September 1st, 2008. Dyer, IN. 32 miles. Grass. Warm.

The equinox may be weeks away, but summer is over. It’s autumn now, and there are more and more geese passing over flying south. Tomorrow we begin our long run in the Chicago suburbs before the autumn chases us south as well. Everything after Chicago, no matter how many weeks we stretch it out, is the home run. Strong box office for the first show, and the second show was respectable.


August 31st, 2008. Shelby, IN. 22 miles. Grass lot without water. Warm.

It’s said that in the old days a rail show like Christy Bros could literally play a crossroads in farm country so long as the bill posters put up enough paper and the show mailed out enough one cent postcards advertising the date. Shelby isn’t much more than a crossroads.

Fierce mosquitoes even in broad daylight..


August 30, 2008. Hebron, IN. 32 miles. Mowed Field. Warm

Indiana dates continue to turn out sparse crowds