This is part two of the Sarasota Wiki Vacation series. This trip to the Sarasota barrier islands yielded a large number of pictures which I’ve added to various Wikipedia articles. The unusually-long post I wrote became too long and unfocused. It is about 90 pages long. I am now breaking it up into specific posts by location and theme.
This one is about The Howard Bro. Circus, undisputedly the world’s largest miniature circus, located within John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
We visited the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on day two of our trip. I don’t know that its long official name is useful. This place is so much more than a “museum”. For sure, it’s got a world-class fine art museum with several buildings housing 10,000 paintings and objects from ancient times through modern days, spanning European, African and Asian arts. But its huge 66-acre campus includes ponds, a playground, a stone gnome garden, Rose Garden, Secret Garden (burial site), Promenade, tree trail, tea house, art library, education center, the historical Ringling mansion (Cà d’Zan), a circus museum complete with Ringling’s personal railroad passenger car (The Wisconsin), and the world’s largest miniature circus at 1:16 scale. Perhaps that’s why the place recently rebranded itself as “The Ringling“. Check out the PDF map of the campus.
A huge mural greeting visitors to the Tibbals Learning Center recalls the glorious days of the traveling circus in a time when local schools and all businesses closed shop the moment the circus rolled into town.
I am a sucker for all things miniature. Naturally I lingered in the Tibbals Learning Center. Inside this building one finds a breathtaking 1:16 scale model display of the most powerful Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily Circus (in its days) that gave us The Greatest Shown on Earth. The display houses 42,143 items, 8 large tents, 152 circus wagons, 1,500 workers and performers, 7,000 folding chairs, and more than 500 animals.
The display began with the circus train arriving at a town, and various exotic animals being unloaded from the train cars.
Folks started streaming in.
People milled around vending carts and trucks.
Performers and workers alike have got to be fed. We were told that diners were actually waited on, and food were made to individual orders.
Large areas of the site were devoted to performance preparations.
Finally, there was the big show. I was surprised to find the flag of Taiwan atop the tent. But perhaps it makes sense, as ROC was China during the time Tibbals built these models.
Patrons walked through a zoo tent. For many people in the past, this was their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see exotic animals.
A special, designated area allowed ladies to do last minute cosmetic touch-ups, and for men to fix their neckties, before the main event started.
The big tent showcased all sorts of circus acrobatics at the same time.
Stable tents secluded from the main tents kept workhorses content and fed.
All lumber needed for the show were harvested onsite.
The second floor of building housed more scale models. In the reflection, the phone responsible for almost all pictures on this post could be seen.
The scale model display continues to be expanded.
A artist is currently working on a new exhibit, based on a poster from bygone days.