Circus Comes to Town....Sort of

By Eric Olson

June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 31, 2008 at 1:05 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter)--IMAGINE LIVING ON A FARM A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. THEN IMAGINE THE CIRCUS COMING TO TOWN..THE BIZARRE ANIMALS, THE ROUSTABOUTS HAULING UP THE BIGTOP...AND ALL THOSE STRANGE PEOPLE. IT MUST HAVE SEEMED LIKE THE MARTIANS HAD LANDED.

Colleen: I think it was an amazing collection of people that came together to put on a show. It had performance art and artifacts and costumes.

THE BIGTOP MAY BE GONE BUT THE BRIGHT COSTUMES, THE ARTWORK AND THE ARTIFACTS OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF CIRCUS ARE STILL AROUND. AND FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL WEEKS YOU CAN SEE SOME OF THE BEST AT THIS EXHIBIT, 'THE HOOSIER BIGTOP', AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. FRANCIS' ROLLAND CENTER.

THE ARTIFACTS ARE CHARMING..WOOD CARVINGS THAT GRACED THE SIDES OF CIRCUS WAGONS AND STEAM CALLIOPES..AND RARE SCALE MODELS, HANDCARVED, OF WAGONS AND ANIMALS.

THE ARTWORK'S SUPURB, TOO. THESE CIRCUS PORTRAITS MADE PERU, INDIANA ARTIST ROBERT WEAVER FAMOUS. AND THESE LITHOGRAPH POSTERS HELPED SPREAD THE WORD THE HAGENBECK-WALLACE CIRCUS WAS COMING TO TOWN.

Colleen: I think it took people out of their normal routine and showed them the bigger world. It was a carefree entertainment that got them out of the grind.

THE STORIES BEHIND THE ART ARE THE RICHEST PART OF THIS EXHIBIT. THERE'S POODLES HANNEFORD, TRICK HORSEBACK RIDER, MOVIE STAR..ONE OF THE RIDING HANNEFORDS, THE HIGHEST PAID ACT IN CIRCUS HISTORY. AND THE MYSTERIOUS BETTIE........, THE BEAUTIFUL ENIGMA WRAPPED IN COLORFUL MYSTERY.

Colleen: She just exudes this feeling of pride and beauty and while everyone's probably looking at her like a freak, she's got this aura about her and I think it's just a beautifully rendered painting.

THIS EXHIBIT IS EXOTIC BUT IT'S NOT DISTANT. IT TRAVELED JUST FORTY MILES TO GET TO FORT WAYNE. THESE PIECES CAN BE SEEN YEAR 'ROUND AT THE INTERNATIONAL CIRCUS HALL OF FAME IN PERU INDIANA, ON THE GROUNDS OF WHAT WERE THE WINTER QUARTERS OF THE HAGENBECK-WALLACE AND OTHER CIRCUSES. THIS IS WHERE THE ANIMALS, ENTERTAINERS AND HARDWARE OF THE TRAVELING SHOWS WAITED OUT WINTER..WAITED FOR THE NEXT SEASON, THE NEXT SHOW TO BEGIN. A SPECTACLE GONE BUT WELL REMEMBERED IN CERTAIN CORNERS OF YOUR COUNTRY. THIS IS ERIC OLSON REPORTING




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