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Saturday, September 19, 2009 

Friday September 18th, 2009. Noel, MO. 80 miles. Grass. Overcast, rain predicted.

There are four weeks left in the season as we play our last town in Missouri. From here we play across Oklahoma with two one day stands across the state line in Kansas, then we dip down into Texas in the Panhandle ten days from now and play the towns we cancelled in the Spring during the snowstorm. From there it’s home across TX and OK.

When Red Johnson started this show 25 years ago Culpepper & Merriweather went out with three guys and a 40 X 60 tent. The show grew quickly that first season, the tent last for a couple of years. Playing small towns from Arizona to Wisconsin the show was fresh and pretty on the lot. Lately I’ve been thinking about what it might take to recreate that kind of show? Small towns still love a circus. And there’s still room for a show that looks good. What I’m wondering is if a show like that could be incorporated as a not-for-profit...not like a “circus arts” show, but rather because the status might be beneficial in booking, it might protect investors making small loans to put the show on the road, and it would offer some incentive to show management to put profits – and there should be profits – back into the circus itself. A small tent, seats, a couple straight trucks, and a dozen people. It doesn’t take all that much to start a show. But whether that show is really worth creating depends entirely on purpose. If the magic of traditional circus with animals playing communities that don’t see much of that is missing from the formulation – better to keep it in the barn. We shall see.

A potential major pitfall for a "not for profit" entity is the board of directors, as Paul Binder might tell you. A run-away board, especially one dominated by people who espouse the belief that "this enterprise ought to be run just like my business," can divert an organization from its intended mission, if not totally suffocate it. Two examples come to mind: 1. The founder of the St. Louis City Museum literally fired his board of directors (even tho he wasn't supposed to be able to do so) when the board attempted to curb his creative and imagination. And 2. A Northern Arizona museum whose purpose was to promote arts and crafts of major Native American tribes alienated many of its clients when a new board tried to run it as a business, not as a non-profit.

I suspect that not too many boards would be understanding of, or patient with, circus business methods. Likewise, I know of very few circus owners who would be content to have a dozen or so bosses looking over their shoulders, and their books.

Lane Talburt

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About me

  • I'm B.E.Trumble
  • From Everywhere, United States
  • Ben Trumble works in circus, carnival, and media relations
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