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Another bit of magic is disappearing

May 16, 2017
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

For almost 150 years, "kids of all ages" have thrilled to the wonderful world of the circus. The wholesome family fun has been a favorite part of the American entertainment scene since the mid 1800s.

But in this month of May, the lights will dim and the tents will be forever stored away. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, often called "The Greatest Show on Earth," has come to an end.

According to industry spokesmen, the circus has fallen victim to declining attendance due to the changes in society's tastes in entertainment. In addition, the circus has been the focus of extended fights with animal rights groups. And as in every segment of business, operating expenses have increased.

When I read the recent news releases about the circus coming to an end, I couldn't help but regret that future generations of youngsters will never have the thrill of entering the unique world inside a soaring circus tent and being transported by that special magic.

Though the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been the unquestioned leader of the industry, there were also dozens of small circuses that criss-crossed the country from bustling cities to tiny country villages.

And the shows came in all sizes, from weekend extravaganzas that turned the local stadium into a showplace, to one-night presentations that brought out the kid in every adult.

Memories of one of these traveling circuses are still fresh in my mind as well as son Tim's.

It was in 1993 when the Franzen Brothers transformed Mayville's Lakeside Park into a circus world.

When we entered the big tent, I was still thinking like a critical adult. Everywhere I looked, the tent, the cages the equipment looked a bit seedy, showing signs of neglect.

But before long, the kid who still lives in me was taken over by the glittering costumes, the amazing acrobats, the fearless animal trainer, and the clowns with their irresistible routines. And, beside me, my adult son was clapping and giggling like a kid again. We had both been transformed by the spirit of the circus.

Time slipped away as we joined the rest of the audience in "ooing and ahing" with each new act. The show closed to thunderous applause.

As we stood to leave, the Barker took a moment to thank us for coming and reminded us to revisit a circus whenever possible.

That unforgettable Franzen Brothers Circus took place a quarter century ago. I'm so glad Tim and I stored up an unforgettable afternoon of memories.

I hope your family has some, too.



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