On a cold winter morning, Rooster and I headed for Peru, Indiana to visit Circus City Center. We had a wonderful Circus City adventure and I got the inspiration for a book. #Peru #Indiana #Ringling Brother #Barnum & Bailey #circus #clown
Circus City Adventure
In May of 2017, the big top of the last great circus came crashing to the ground. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus disbanded in Sarasota, Florida. There were many reasons for the Greatest Show on Earth to come to an end.
Firstly, railroad costs skyrocketed. This made it impossible to transport a circus to its performances. Secondly, Animal rights activists brought to the world’s attention the abuses done to the elephants performing in the ring. A circus without elephants wasn’t the greatest show at all. Thirdly, other forms of entertainment took the Greatest Show on Earth’s place.
What happened to the circus in America?
At one time in our nation’s history, a circus pulling into town was a big deal. The development of the motion picture industry gave the country a new form of entertainment. By the 1940s, the circus saw a decline. As early as 1956 circuses moved out of the tent and into the arena. A wave of technological advancements made it hard for circuses to attract an audience.
It was hard to impress a kid with the daring of the brave young men on the flying trapeze when they could see a still more dangerous act being performed in their own living room. The Beetles came to the United States, and the age of rock and roll was launched.
The circus was suddenly no longer relevant to the American lifestyle. The only remnant left is Cirque Du Soleil on the Las Vegas stage and the Children’s Circus in Peru Indiana. In July about 200 kids will present 10 performances over eight days on the flying trapeze. Some of the more daring kids will even walk the steel wire stretched across the arena.
Rooster and I jumped into the Sunshine Mobile on a cold January morning and made our way to Circus City. Lynn Anderson visited the museum there a year ago. She brought back a good report. It’s hard to find an adventure when you live in a frozen tundra. If temperatures dip below zero, it’s best to plan to do something inside out of the cold. Rooster and I had driven past the building housing the museum at least a dozen times in the past, but we never stopped.
Today would be the day we’d go see what this circus thing was all about. The day was cold but sunny, and a fine time to go on a Circus City Adventure.
Breakfast at Track’s End
The first place we made our way to in Peru was Track’s End Restaurant. The eatery is located at 60 Jackson Ave Peru. Indiana. There is easy access to highway 24. This makes the diner simple to find. I’m not sure why they called the place Track’s End because there wasn’t a railroad anywhere in sight. Maybe the owner’s name was Track since the name was in the possessive and not the plural.
There were a couple of train-themed pictures hanging on the wall. Rooster and I both had the Loaded Locomotive. The dish was flavorful and filling. We both agreed there was an excessive amount of hash brown potatoes used for filling. The meal would have been better if the ingredients were more equally distributed. This restaurant has a lot of potentials. It could be a high-class 50s style eatery with some minor adjustments. I got the impression the customer base was made up of locals. This can be intimidating for the walk-in off the street customer.
Overall, we had a good meal at a decent price. We’ll probably go back again to sample the dinner menu. If you happen to visit this eatery, tell them The Hen House Lady sent you.
A visit to the Peru, Indiana Circus museum
We drove into Peru. It wasn’t long until we spotted the red and white awning of the building we were looking for. We weren’t sure what to expect when we walked through the door. We were greeted by a friendly woman who seemed to be excited we came to pay a visit. The dark-haired lady rummaged in her desk drawer until she found a set of keys. She led us to a red door with the words, “The Greatest Kids In The World Pass Through These Doors. Circus kids!”
The lady explained she would let us into the area but warned us about the cold we’d experience once she opened the door. She wasn’t wrong. We didn’t care about the temperature. We felt like we were stepping back into the past when we entered an official-looking circus arena complete with a flying trapeze. She explained how kids trained all year long to put on shows during July. Three of her children performed in that very ring when they were younger.
After we had a good look around, Rooster and I were shown to the museum. Starting in the 1890s huge circuses needed a place to winter. The location had to be centrally located and have railroad access. Six carnivals chose Peru, Indiana as the ideal place to spend the offseason.
My writer’s mind working overtime
Among these big-time acts was Ringling Brothers and Buffalo Bills Wild West Show. I couldn’t help thinking there were other elements that made Peru their choice. The small city is in the middle of the Bible belt. The chief occupation back in those days was farming. A brand of unique chemistry must have existed for the bearded lady to walk down the street without attracting attention. The pastor’s wife must have stood in line beside one of the women from a trapeze act who made her living dressed in skimpy clothing more than once.
It would take an unusual doctor to set one of the Human Cannonballs many injuries without suggesting a change of vocation. My writer’s mind is imagining this city functioning in the circus’s heyday like a town filled with superheroes. The citizens allowed them to blend into everyday life without acknowledging the circus people’s superpowers. They hid their existence from the prying eyes of curious visitors. They also didn’t make a big deal about a stray lion getting lose and wandering the streets of the town. I can see a NaNoWriMo book plot percolating in the back of my mind as I type these words.
What we saw at the museum
The room we were led to contained everything circus. We saw clown stuff galore, mannequins dressed in the costumes the female trapeze artists wore, a funny looking pipe organ which would announce the elephants had come to town, and pictures which illustrated all the aspects of circus life. Rooster and I spent an hour wandering around the room looking at pictures and the paraphernalia littering tables and countertops throughout the space. The impressive collection made us decided to explore the city of Peru.
We will be coming here to enjoy their Circus Festival and Youth Circus in the summer. We also want to visit the International Circus Hall of Fame. The city and the state of Indiana bought what remained of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus trappings and brought it back home to Indiana. We’re headed home to hibernate, but we plan to make return trips to Circus City on another adventure. The bears have the right idea. We might not be heard from until spring.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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