The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum

The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum001In March–when Minnesota winds were blowing cold, I had an opportunity to spend a couple of weeks on Long Boat Key in Florida.  While the beaches were beautiful, one of the unexpected highlights of the trip was a jaunt to Ringling Bros Circus Museum, Ringling Mansion-Ca’ D’ Zan  and The John and Mable Ringling Art Museum.

The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum001

John Ringling was a brilliant businessman who turned his circus revenue into a real estate fortune as developer of Sarasota Florida.  By the 1930s he was one of the wealthiest men in the world.

The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum001Can you imagine–in the pre-TV and internet era–how thrilling it must have been when the circus came to town?

The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum001The combination of theater, exotic animals, circus acts…

The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum001

The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum001

The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum001The Circus Museum is a fabulous mix of history, art, and theater…

Part of me wishes I could experience the real circus back in its prime… with the heat and noise and smells and people!

No wonder people ran off and joined the circus!

I definitely have a new appreciation for The Circus.  If you are ever in Sarasota, don’t miss The Ringling!


Lori-The Lion Tamer?

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24 thoughts on “The Ringling Brothers Circus Museum

  1. We visited this museum when we were on vacation a couple years ago. Loved it … was ALOT better than I ever thought it would be.

  2. Hi Lori,
    I have been to this museum too a few years ago. We also got to see the house on the grounds. We still use the term ” mediterreanian junkyard ” as a description to the ecclectic style of decoration. I do not know if the tourguide made that term up or not, but it was a very correct way to describe what the house looked like!

  3. Lori, I grew up watching the circus in its prime. I had four uncles who were trapeze artists. In the winter they would setup and practice in our back yard in Houston. Their last name was Valentine and used the name in their act. One cousin was the first to do the triple. My mama took us to see them several times each year and as a teenager I traveled with the circus for 2 weeks. Wonderful fond memories of the sounds and smells of the circus. Thanks for stirring old memories.

    • Boo Grandma, I remember seeing a trapeze act named Valentine at the circus years ago. Wonder if it was your uncles? I live in Washington State. Love the circus. My grandma used to take me to watch the circus train unload when I was a toddler.

      • Thanks for your comment. It could have been one of my uncles. In the beginning they were the Flying Valentine but as each married they had their own individual act…..flying La Val’s, Flying Valentinos. It was always a fun time. My mother was never part of the act, she was a preacher’s wife and deaf interpreter. Both of their parents were deaf. When working together my uncles used sign language to signal each other. Very interesting family.

  4. Lori,

    I remember, as a child, the sound of the elephants and lions in the night, the increasingly potent smell of the hay and wild (!) animals, the gaudy gypsie-looking vans and the exotic circus performers. I was just a little girl and the circus would come every couple of years and set up their presence right across the road from where I lived in Bulli which is on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales, Australia. It may not have been the great Barnum and Bailey but, nonetheless, a real live circus to cast a spell of excitement, disbelief and wonder to last a lifetime.

    Fabulous, fabulous memories that seem to belong to a generation, then they are gone.

  5. Lion Tamer…bahhahahaah! You’d be braver than me!! course you did have six kids so you are pretty tough! 🙂 That is one animal I don’t ever want to be in a cage with…LOL! The horse act of Ringling…I don’t know which team it is but they bought our house and 20 acres horse farm in FL when we left. Talking to the young couple with their Russian accents was just a hoot! and the funny stories they shared of circus life. I did not even know there was a museum there…all the years I lived there did not travel that way even once. My daughter drove by our place after we had moved and called me…she said there were about five little people mowing my huge lawn and two big curcus rings were set up in the back horse pasture and one with tapeze…sounded like the neighbors got a show every day. LOL!

  6. If you haven’t read “Water For Elephants” by Sara Gruen I would greatly recommend it. I thought ‘why would I want to read about a circus’ but was captivated half way thru the first page. Fiction but set against real events.

  7. 1hen I was in the 7th. grade a boy in the 11th. grade actually “ran away with the circus!” We were astonished as were his parents but they allowed him to continue. He became a “lighting technician” & always came to our class reunions with many stories to share.
    He eventually married a circus performer & through the years they adopted 9 children. Each child has gone to college for other than circus careers.. He left the circus & became a chef, opened a restaurant in Berlin, then moved to Galway, Ireland where he remains–happily cooking, traveling, embroidering circus life & scenes from Ireland. He was at our last reunion & spoke about the circus giving him the freedom to pursue life & it’s offerings.

  8. This is so interesting today… with all the memories and anecdotes..We saw B & B once in a bigger city in the 40’s..don’t remember where tho .It was so exciting. Would love to see what kind of FM design you might come up with, Lori, to signify our circus memories…in case you might be so inclined. That would be so great on a child’s room wall hanging or snuggly quilt. Thanks for the memory trip.Now I have a craving for real cotton candy!

  9. I grew up in Denver in the heyday of the tent circus entertainment. I lived right across the street from where the circus train stopped and I got to watch the animals unloaded. The elephants, horses, etc were watered in the fir hydrant right in front of my house-I could watch from the porch. Then the elephants were walked two or three blocks up the street and it was by their pulling power that the main tent was erected. Of course my family went to the always thrilling performance-it was always in August and that tent was unbelievably hot! The cotton candy that I loved literally melted in my hands because of the heat. Those days were thrilling. I might add, Lori, that there is a circus museum in Wisconsin. We visited it last summer. Thanks for sparking the memories of times long gone by.

  10. I’m fascinated by the patterns on the wheels of all the carts, to say nothing of the riot of color. Really didn’t grow up with the circus, unfortunately.

  11. OK, Lori! Now I am inspired to design a circus themed quilt… Adding it to my list of quilts to make after all the UFO’s are completed!

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  15. How fun. At first I was sure you were going to be writing about the Ringling Brothers Circus World in Baraboo, WI. I took my kids there when they were little and they had so much fun. The wagons are absolutely gorgeous. The Baraboo location is their summer home, so to speak and each year the wagons are put onto train cars and brought up to WI from FL to be put on display here. All along the way through the states, you can see news reports as to when they will be near the different towns they travel through. The fans are all out near those areas to get a picture of the train as it passes through to get pictures. And once in the WI area there is a huge Circus Parade through Baraboo each year. I never have gone to see that, but I do know there are thousands of people that do go to watch the parade as it’s very long and so awesome to be able to see all those wagons and the clowns and animals.

    • Years ago we passed thru Baraboo many times. I wish we had investigated and had taken our children while they were growing up. I am glad to know it was something more than hype. Thanks…

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