The Greatest Show On Earth…200 Years Later

Yesterday at a coffee shop I saw a flyer containing this information:

That’s right. The circus is coming to town! But not just any circus, THE circus to beat all other dime show museums and petty traveling shows–The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show On Earth. And this year, it’s celebrating the 200th anniversary of P.T. Barnum’s birth. Hmmm…anyone suspect what tomorrow’s Friday Ephemera might be about?

Of course, a huge part of me really wants to go to the show at the New Orleans Arena, but a couple other thoughts are also running through my head about it. For one thing, I haven’t been to the circus since I was very young. Probably five or so. I remember blurred impressions of the day–sticky cotton candy, the shuffling of the crowd, the smell of livestock, the lights and noises. As with many people, it exists in a kind of mythical place in my nostalgia and I’m not sure I want to dampen those memories with harsher realities that I’m sure I’ll pick up on as an adult, and a writer at that. I’m likely to spend my entire day being melancholy over the lonely scene I’ve concocted for the stable keeper with the missing teeth who I’m convinced will eat cold Vienna sausages out of a can in his messy trailer that night while listening to Hank Williams and crying over the woman who loved him and left him penniless in Topeka. See what I mean? It’s a problem.

So aside from the potential for the magic of the place to be somewhat distilled, I wonder too if I’ll be overly disappointed in how corporate and modern the circus has become. My fascination with the circus as an adult, after all, is centered on its hey-dey in the early 20th century and all the wonder and cruelty and turmoil that accompanied that era. A hypo-allergenic, politically correct, saccharine sweet circus may indeed be fun to visit, but it is a different thing entirely from the Greatest Show On Earth that exists in my Houdini biographies and Wikipedia articles, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Elephants on parade at Madison Square Garden

Of course, the elephants are a huge draw, and I may literally pee my pants if I got to pet one, but I also worry about the conditions that the animals are kept in, and I would want to research that before I gave money to the company and supported it. Does anyone know of a place to find reliable information about animal cruelty in the circus?

cast photo for B&B's Zing Zang Zoom, currently touring

Of course, I may not even have to make this difficult decision because the tickets are so expensive, but there’s still a possibility if I can hustle up some babysitting money before then. How about you? Have you been to the circus recently? What did you think?




Filed under elephants, general nonsense

3 responses to “The Greatest Show On Earth…200 Years Later

  1. Victoria / Justice Pirate

    oh, how cool. yey for the cute elephants. I’ve never been to a circus ever. Maybe one day.

  2. One of my proudest moments of the day involved convincing someone that B&B had one elephant that had been traveling with the show since it began. The other one was convincing someone that the lyrics to the KISS song are, “I wanna rock and roll all night, and part of every day.”

    My last circus was in my middle school years. Not really any draw to go, but it’s one of those things where I’d go if I were with people who were also going.

    Here’s my solution to your woes: get parents of babysitting kids to let you take them to the circus. Parents pay you + buy tix + have night to selves = everybody wins!

    Fun circus fact: one year, when B&B came to Baton Rouge, their parade was going to conflict with LSU’s homecoming parade. Governor Huey Long would have none of this, so he dug up an old state law that said tigers must be dipped before they are brought across state lines. No dip = no circus. Score another for HPLong & LSU.

  3. aubrey

    I do believe that the last time I went to the circus, I was 5-6 years old. I was watching the events, enraptured I suppose, until I saw some Indians riding out onto the ring. I turned to my parents and in a strident voice – known to parents the world over – inquired, “What the hell is that?!”

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