Sunday, August 30, 2009 

Sunday August 30th, 2009. Lexington, IL. 35 miles. Grass. Cool, overcast.

We jumped out of Chatsworth last evening rather than waiting until today to tow trucks off the lot. Slept in late today. It seems wrong somehow to think of August dates as autumn, but in a sense autumn weather has been with us for much of the last few weeks. Maybe we’ll see some summer temperatures as we approach Missouri, but they aren’t here yet.


Saturday August 29th. Chatsworth, IL. 100 miles. Grass. Cool. Sunny.

Tremendous day yesterday in Chicagoland. Two sold out shows and third show added with a nearly full house. Made for a late night and we needed a very early jump today to race south. Respectable presale in Chatsworth. Very soft lot required some towing to spot the candy wagon. .


Friday August 28th, 2009. Summit, IL. 55 miles. Grass. Cool, overcast. Rain likely.

We’re really into Chicago today, ten blocks from the city line itself. Summit is an industrial suburb near Midway Airport. Weather still dogs us, but the presale here is outstanding. Trey used to book this town for Kelly Miller. Tomorrow we jump a hundred miles south and begin moving in the direction of St. Louis.


Thursday August 27th, 2009. Hinkley, IL. 45 miles. Grass. Cool. Rain.

Small shows today despite the presale. Wet weather is keeping people at home.

Wednesday. Malta, IL. 35 miles. Grass. Rain, cool.

The oddly cold weather is still with us. Rain, heavy at times is forecast through the weekend. Presales are respectable, but with the weather the box office could be better

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 

Tuesday August 25th. Hampshire, IL. 40 miles. Grass. Warm.

Early morning jump through commuter traffic. For a small town circus jumps through urban areas are a change of pace. Circus fans were waiting on the lot with donuts and coffee. My son Robin returns to the show tomorrow. We are nearly three quarters of the way through the season and it’s time to start thinking about winter.

Monday August 24th. Richmond, IL. 92 miles. Grass. Warm.

So now we’re in Illinois beginning five days around Chicagoland. For Hugo based shows the Chicago suburbs are a Mecca generally promising reasonable business after the traditional summer duldrums. Carson & Barnes is nearby, and Kelly Miller will arive in the area and stay for several weeks when August becomes September. Weather is warmer after the cold spell in WI. Perfect circus days.

Sunday August 23rd, 2009. Marshall, WI. 50 miles. Grass. Sunny, cool.

Another chilly morning. The geese are beginning to fly south across Wisconsin One man told me, “When the geese are flying and it’s still August, the leaves will begin changing in a couple more weeks, then it’ll frost.” The circus chases the spring northward across March and April, then chases summer. Now it seems that the autumn is already chasing us. The Fisher King, the mythic lord of seasons born when the snow melts and old and in his grave when the winter returns is turning gray. Tomorrow we turn south into Illinois and in ten days Missouri. Henceforth more or less we move in the direction of Hugo, Oklahoma.

Saturday, August 22, 2009 

Palmyra, WI. 60 miles. Grass. Sunny, cool.

Early shows on another day that feels more like autumn than summer.

Friday August 21st. Evansville, WI. 35 miles. Grass. Cool.

Great shows on grass lot after a cold morning with rain. Some of the nastiest animal liberation protestors I’ve seen outside of California. Foul-mouthed and crude. They actually stole a dog from the home of a show family and tried to cry assault when it was forcefully taken back. They were happy to call show children dumb and insulted them for leaving in trailers. Finally the police forced them off the lot and out of the backyard. Claiming compassion for animals is no cover for the hatred activists feel for human beings.

Nice visit with circus fan Steve Flint today. A pleasure.

Thursday August 20th. New Glarius, WI. 40 miles. Grass. Wet. Cool.

High temperature only in the 60s today. Morning rain. Good crowd watching the tent go up. Several circus email lists have reported on the problems Willie Davenport is having down in Texas where USDA has seizing his elephant “Jewel” on medical grounds. I’ve been of the opinion for many years that circuses, like zoos once-upon-a-time, can learn to live with regulation by creating flawless paper trails. Plenty of good trainers have had run ins with USDA/APHIS because being a good trainer or a well intentioned animal caretaker doesn’t automatically make somebody good at the minutia of bureaucracy. Despite the feeling sometimes that Federal and State agencies are “out-to-get” anybody in the animal business (and sometimes it looks like that) governments tend to be impersonal -- basing end decisions less on the opinion of one inspector or another, and more on the ability of an exhibitor to prove the government wrong through documentation. The willingness of APHIS to “disqualify” the judgement of local vets on exotic animal issues serves as a warning that documenting copious consultations with “specialists” is probably a must these days when health issues arise with exotics held under USDA license. While in a perfect world no one should ever have to prove their innocence or good intent it’s pretty clear that anything less than that won’t satisfy agencies that live to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s. Plenty of exhibitors argue that such perfection in records keeping is almost beyond the ability of smaller animal operations – and it’s certainly costly -- but again learning from zoos, the churn that satisfies bureaucracy is a language we can learn and might have made a difference in the case of Willie Davenport and Jewel, or additional issues in the case that may come out of Fish & Wildlife and have nothing to do with circus or exhibition or animal care.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 

Thursday August 20th. New Glarius, WI. 40 miles. Grass. Wet. Cool.

Two good shows yesterday despite the downpours. Several people leaving thye show for a couple days for funerals, including our 24 man who is flying off to Little Rock until Saturday. Drank a toast to Mr. Ringling last night in a tavern next door to his old business address.

Wednesday August 19th. Darlington, WI. 13 miles. Asphalt. Rain. Cool.

We’re in the Piggy Wiggly parking lot downtown. Good presale and the large Hispanic community suggests a decent day. Darlington deserves a place in circus history. Once upon a time Al Ringling worked in a harness shop here in a building half a block from the lot that now houses Murph’s Furniture. Mr. Ringling became friends with a man named Butch Parsons, and his brother and joined them in their small circus where he performed several acts. Mr. Ringling regaled his own brothers with circus tales in letters sent back home to Baraboo. When the Parsons show was lost to a riverboat fire, the Ringlings took out their own circus and brought Butch Parsons on to manage concessions. For the next 21 years the Parsons brothers owned the rights to concessions on what became the enormous Ringling Brother Circus and retired as very wealthy men.

Tuesday August 18th. Mineral Point, WI. 26 miles. Grass/mud. Cooler.

Good business yesterday in Spring Green with many visitors down from Baraboo. In Mineral Point the lot is a muddy infield on the fairgrounds. Prosperous town, but a disappointing presale. Rain and cooler weather will be with us all week.

Monday, August 17, 2009 

Monday August 17th, 2009. Spring Green, WI. 30 miles. Grass. Warm. Heavy rains.

Yesterday’s town, Richland Center was the birthplace and boyhood home of Frank Lloyd Wright – but today’s town is where Wright design genius saw it’s fullest expression in his “prairie houses.” For any fan of architecture this is a treat.

If the traditional American circus was born in the Hudson River Valley of New York in places like Somers, and if the “golden age” of the rail shows can trace its roots to Peru, Indiana, it has to be said that no part of the country breaths circus history quite like Wisconsin. I the years after the War Between the States as many as two dozen wagon shows wintered in places like Delevan, WI. And legendary circus manager W.C. Coup came out of WI to put the Barnum show on the rails. The Gollmars, George Hall, Wayne Franzen the list of circus greats Wisconsin bred is a long one. But mostly when we think circus and WI what we’re remembering is Baraboo – the town where the Ringling Brothers built and operated the second greatest show on earth, after James Bailey’s circus holding. When the Ringlings later acquired Bailey’s Barnum show they left Baraboo behind and gave America the circus that it knows and loves the best. We’re thirty five miles from that “mecca” today – still home to many circus fans and performers. Wisconsin can blow hot or cold when it comes to filling the seats, but it’s always a pleasure to be here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009 

Sunday. Richland Center, WI. 125 miles. Grass. Heavy rain.

Long jump into Wisconsin. Spotted three bald eagles along the Mississippi River. Fuel stop in McGregor, IA. ...Some brothers from there moved to Baraboo and started a little circus with Yankee Robinson. There's so much to say about WI as a state rich in circus lore -- but with early shows it won't get said today.

Saturday, August 15, 2009 

Saturday August 15th, 2009. Cascade, IA. 55 miles. Plowed field. Warm, slight chance of showers.

Original lot in Cascade was in a park near the center of town, but low wires looked like a problem. Lot moved to a field behind an industrial park. This is our final date in Iowa. Like MN many Iowa towns have given us respectable ticket sales – some excellent – but overall per cap spending on concessions, novelties, midway attractions etc. Have been disappointing. Per caps are where we really see the impact of the Recession. It may not all be economics... Early in the season when we were forced to pull a rental generator the decision was made to leave the pony ride at home. Now I suspect if we had the ponies more people would leave the tent during intermission, boosting midway revenues and concessions alike. Moon bounces simply lack the allure of ponies.

Yesterday was the 89th anniversary of the birth of Big John Strong in Jamestown, NY. Actor, concessions operator, king of the small indoor shows in the west in the 1960’s, and 70’s, and ultimately a legendary high grass circus owner – John Strong was beloved and never afraid to put his name on his show.

Today’s the birthday of our own conessions manager and show announcer, clown college alum and long time performer Jim “BJ” Hebert. Twenty-nine seasons under the bigtop and still with it and for it.

Friday, August 14, 2009 

Friday. Strawberry Point, IA. 25 miles. Rough mowed field. Hot and humid.

We're into the languid dog days of summer when the air is thick and moist and by afternoon it's too hot for much of anything. It's fair and carnival and festival season. Yesterday in Fayette we came in one day ahead of the Watermelon Festival. Today the Iowa State Fair opens. Crowds can be sparse in August until schools start to reopen. On Sunday we move into Wisconsin and in a couple weeks we'll turn south aiming for an October closing in Texas and revisiting thr towns where we were snowed in during the Spring. After that, winterquarters.

Thursday. Fayette, IA. 45 miles. Grass. Hot. Humid

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 

Monona, IA. 55 miles. Grass. Warm. Humid.

New town. Light presale. Yesterday we played to two strawhouses in Cresco. We have three more days in Iowa, then a week in WI. Last night the "tenting crew" as Brent "Cheeko" Dewitt calls them asked how many more days were left in the season. 63 according to Jim "BJ" Hebert. The guys decided it was time put up a chart and count them down.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 

Tuesday August 11th, 2009. Cresco, IA. 50 miles. Grass. Warm.

Traditionally a good town for CM Circus. We're back up along the MN border. In yesterday's town sawa beautiful house by Frank Lloyd Wright down by the river. Amazing the treasures you discover in small town America.

Monday, August 10, 2009 

Monday. Charles City, IA. 45 miles. Grass. Warm. Beautiful grass park.

Lovely little city on the river. Great lot. If only everyplace was this nice.

Sunday. Allison, IA. 35 miles. Rain, warm. Grass lot.

Butler County Fairgrounds. Poor ticket sales and big afternoon thunderstorms. Fair board members couldn't understand why their families weren't receiving free tickets courtesy of the show. Jumped in the evening after the second performance.

Saturday. Tripoli, IA. 85 miles. Grass. Muggy, very hot.

First really awful heat in quite awhile. Rain in the morning, but by afternoon the heat index approached 105 degrees F.

According to Circus History, in July of 1962 Little Bob Stevens brought his Sells Bros Circus to Tripoli. 80 foot tent with three 40 foot middles. Show featured Barbara and Buckles Woodcock.

Friday, August 07, 2009 

Belmond, IA. 18 miles. Grass. Cool. Wet.

Good presale yesterday, but little gate. Local factory is working only 20 hours a week. Rains last night so we pulled off the lot after tear down. Here in Iowa I'm thinking about Jim Royal who has a home here. After the annual Kellys Island excitement he the Kelly Miller show will be looking forward to Chicago and autumn. Heavy rain on the jump here this morning. Lot on the banks of the Iowa River appears to be solid and well drained so far. Tomorrow the temps will soar into the 90's. First really hot summer weather we've seen in awhile.

Thursday, August 06, 2009 

Garner, IA. 30 miles. Grass lot. Overcast, chance of rain tonight.

Good shows yesterday and finally a per cap that wasn't down right embarrassing. Full moon rose over the corn fields next to the lot -- absolutely beautiful. We're in that part of Iowa ... Mason City...Clear Lake, where the ghost of Buddy Holly still lingers in the air. Drove through Forest City on the jump and looked at the acres of Winnebago RVs at the factory and thought that in a recession like this one it most be hard to sell a motorhome or trailer.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009 

Mills Lake, Iowa. 40 miles. Gravel. Warm.

We'll be in northeastern Iowa for the next ten or eleven days.


Tuesday August 4th, 2009. New Richland, MN. 30 miles. Gravel. Tight lot. Cool again.


Monday, August 3rd, 2009. Hayfield, MN. 55 miles. Grass. Warm.

Beautiful weather on a nice lot. These last towns in MN aren't much for business but route us back in Iowa.

Sunday, August 02, 2009 

Sunday August 2nd, 2009. Preston, MN. 30 miles. Grass lot. Warmer/breeze.

It was cold this morning when we left Rushford on the jump to Preston. Felt more like September than August. Very good shows yesterday. Full houses. Per cap still not great, but novelties were selling. In Preston were on a fairgrounds. Respectable prseale. Two more days in MN. Can't say as I will miss daily visits from the electrical inspectors.

August historically is a tough month for a traditional tent show. Comeptition from county and State fairs is fierce and the weather is damned hot in a lot of places. Most years on most shows by August you can begin to predict how the year will wrap up. Going into August with some money, and you feel good and try to protect what's in the safe until business improves after Labor Day. Go into August with red ink and you desperately hope to salvage something in the autumn. We're two thirds of the way through the 2009 season. We can't see the end of the road in the distance, that's still weeks away. But we can begin to feel the outlines of the end of the season.


Saturday August 1st, 2009. Rushford, MN. 80 miles. Dirt/gravel lot. Cool.

We've jumped southeast into the bluff country near the Iowa and Wisconsin borders. Unseasonably cool weather continues. The village of Rushford was badly flooded by the Root River two years ago, but has recovered. Very large ticket presale.