Friday, March 18, 2016

When the circus comes to town

When I was a kid, I never had any desire to run away and join the circus. The closest that I came to that was when I was about 6 years old, and I and few neighborhood kids participated in a “zoo parade” involving our Red Flyer wagons to raise money for the St. Paul zoo. Although the exact memories of that event have fallen to the ravages of time, I DO remember that we actually got to appear on a local television station for our efforts, which is the ONLY time that I have ever been on television.

In the near future, the circus WILL be coming to town again, when the Republican convention goes to Cleveland. Since I already write way too much about politics, I’ll leave it at that, but I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be a very entertaining thing to watch.

You can’t have a circus, of course, without elephants, and I’ve read a couple of books about them that I would highly recommend. “Elephant Run”, by Roland Smith, is a very compelling story about set in Burma during the midst of WWII.

“Water for Elephants” is a novel about growing up in the circus , which was written by Sara Gruen. It was first published in 2006, and was made into a movie in 2011.

Very few people that I know have actually RIDDEN an elephant, but our daughter has actually done it TWICE . The first time was in Thailand, and the second time was in India., and one of those times was bareback.

The classic circus, of course, is Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus, whose roots go all the way back almost 100 years, to 1919. That year also happens to be when the “great molasses disaster” occurred in Boston - but that’s another story.

The circus still exists today, but it stopped exhibiting under tents in 1957, due to safety concerns. For a short period of time, it was owned by the Mattel Toy company, but it is now controlled by Feld Entertainment.

A little known fact is that one of the greatest fire disasters in the history of the United States involved the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and it was actually the fault of the United States Army.

In July of 1944, the circus was set up in Hartford, Connecticut. Due to the fact that the Army needed canvas for the war effort, the organization had priority on the use of canvas. Although Barnum and Bailey WAS able to obtain enough canvas for the “Big Top”, the army refused to release enough fireproofing material for the tent. As a result, the circus used an older waterproofing material that used paraffin dissolved in gasoline. Although it DID work as waterproofing, it was (understandably) highly flammable.

Ultimately, more than 150 people died when the Big Top caught fire, and several circus executives served time in jail “due to their negligence”. The circus set aside all profits for the next 10 years in order to settle the resulting claims.

If you want to compare the differences between 1944 and today, consider the fact that Rick Snyder’s negligence poisoned between 6000 and 12,000 children living in Flint, Michigan. Do you think that there is any chance that he’ll go to jail?

No, I don’t think so either.

If the upcoming circus in Cleveland isn’t enough to whet your appetite for circuses, you’ll be glad to know that there is currently a film in progress about “The Greatest Showman on Earth”. Originally scheduled to be released this year at Christmas, its release date has now been moved back to 2017.

Let the show begin !

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