Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ringling Revisited

Sarasota, FL       High:   70      Low:   43
If you missed our first blog on the Ringling Museum, you can view it here. Sparky had lots more details about her first time visit there.

Ca de Zan
Eldy did not get a chance to visit Ringling when Sparky went the first time with her daughter, Kerry. Since Thursday night from 5:00-8:00 PM has discounted admission, you can visit the two circus museums and the art museum for 10.00. You DON'T get to see the Ca de Zan, the house of John and Mabel Ringling on Thursday nights. It closes at 5:00 PM this time of year, and that's why Thursday nights are discounted. Although we didn't get to see the Ca de Zan this evening, we did tour both circus museums. Sparky had not realized there are TWO circus museums on the grounds when you pay for admission. She missed the second one which is just past the Tibbals Learning Center.

Being that is was so late in the day, the plantings and the blooming trees and flowers were starting to be hard to see, but Sparky plans on going back another day to tour the house, the beautiful grounds, Mabel's rose garden and the art museum. As it was, this tree on the museum grounds was absolutely beautiful. It looked like a tree blooming with lilies.....

What's in the second museum? The Wisconsin, John and Mabel Ringling's private train car...WOW! It was beautiful! You can walk alongside the full length of the train car. The windows are OPEN to the insides so you can really see what's inside and how wealthy a lifestyle the circus afforded them in the early years, the late 1800's and early 1900's. No photo flash allowed but you can take pictures....The opulence of the interiors was really something to see. Mabel even had a clawfoot bathtub in her bedroom/bath area!

There are lots more beautiful circus wagons to see in the second museum.....

You can see the human cannonball truck!  The cannon is mounted on a Mack truck. It could shoot TWO performers within seconds of each other, 140 feet and they exited at a speed of 125 m.p.h. Yikes!

There were more exhibits as well about the scenes behind the glitz and glamor of the circus shows at the second museum...the nitty gritty of circus life.....

Back we walked to the first museum, that one that says, "Welcome to the Big Top". It's called the Tibbals Learning Center.
Sparky loved seeing the the world's largest miniature circus once again..So much interesting information on the placards in front of the miniature circus, like this one about Goliath.

You walk around the outskirts of the circus and learn all about the circus coming to town, from the setup train coming in, the Flying Squadron, to the Flying Squadron being the first to leave for the next town as the final evening show was being played out...Eldo really enjoyed the miniatures, too! It brought back memories for him of a circus coming to town when he was a kid, about twelve years old. It was the Cole Brothers/Clyde Beatty circus. He remembers setting up chairs and getting tickets to go into the circus for having helped set up. But he doesn't remember anything about the circus.

He also enjoyed the interactive exhibits....He shot the cannon....

He walked the high wire...He fell off...

Speaking of high wire, we saw Karl Wallenda's jacket he wore during performances. This had more meaning to us, having just seen Nik Wallenda, the great-grandson, walk the high wire in Sarasota the other day.
And there's so much more to see.....Sparky enjoyed reading about General Tom Thumb and his wife. Charles Stratton was born to normal size parents in 1838. He stopped growing at 6 months and was 25" tall and weighed 15 pounds. When he was four, P.T. Barnum introduced him to the world as General Tom Thumb and he became an international star. In 1863, he married Lavinia Bump who was a perfectly proportioned 31" tall. They married at NYC's Grace Episcopal Church and it was the event of the season with over 2,000 in attendance at the reception.

The Ringling Museum is such a great place to learn more about what a huge extravaganza the circus was in the old days--the shows, the fantastical costumes, the anticipation and excitement generated by the posters and advertising.

It was so foreign, so exotic to the local townspeople, that the excitement would build for days when the circus posters went up. The traditional circus has evolved into something very different today..Cirque de Soleil would be the modern version, we suppose....But to go see this museum and see how it REALLY was, makes you really immerse yourself into the old circus world, and it's fascinating.....

Thursday nights are a great way to see the two circus museums. No crowds! The last time Sparky went with her daughter during the day time, it was elbow to elbow walking through the miniature circus exhibit. So if you are on a budget, go Thursday night. If you really want to see all of it, and it's pretty amazing, you need to bite the bullet, spend the additional money, around 25.00 per adult, and plan on all afternoon or making a day of visiting Ringling's Museums, the art museum and the Ca de Zan, the House of John--the Ringlings' mansion and the beautiful grounds surrounding the complex.....

We'll see you later......


  1. Thanks for the fun tour. I too have some great memories of the circus.

  2. The excitement of the circus coming to town was overwhelming and I was almost 20. My hometown was too small to have the circus come to town. I would love to visit that place.

  3. I love the circus and will definitely plan a visit to the museum next time we're in the area. Thanks for sharing