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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ringling Bros. Train Rolls Through Riverdale Park

The famous circus traveled through Riverdale Park Monday, stopping at the station in town center.

By Melissa Avery

April 13, 2011 It’s a sure sign that spring has arrived when the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus train travels through Riverdale Park. The circus train is a long used symbol and moving trademark of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. There is excitement knowing the train cars are packed with performers, scenery and animals that hold the “greatest show on Earth." The train rolled through Riverdale Park Monday morning, stopping for two hours while it waited to be cleared to move on to its final destination. The train conductor said he was on his way from Baltimore to the Benning Road switching yard. From there it was going to the Fairfax Patriot Center, opening the show at 7:00 pm on April 14th.

This year the show that will be presented is called the Blue Tour Barnum 200 Fundrum. P.T. Barnum, the father of the circus has been called the world’s greatest showman. He started his “Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Circus” in 1870. It was the largest production of its kind in the world. The show accommodated 10,000 seated people. By 1872, the show had a home on the rails. In 1891, After P.T. Barnum passed away, James A. Bailey took over the circus. He expanded the shows popularity and size. At that time it had a five ring stage, employed over a thousand people and traveled the country in 85 railroad cars. By the late 1800’s the Ringling brothers, six in all, of Baraboo, Wisconsin were a competing circus of growing popularity and stature. The official titles for their show were “Ringling Bros. United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan, and Congress of Trained Animals”. Bailey died in 1906 and in 1907 the Ringling brothers purchased Barnum & Bailey Circus which had been their greatest competitor. The result of the two circuses coming together was the largest traveling amusement enterprise of that time. The circus grew to 100 double-length railroad cars and then employed 1,200 people. The train is more than just a mode of transportation; it is also home to performers. They live a life on the rails while working throughout the United States. As the train finally left Riverdale Park, Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson could be seen standing at one of the train car doors. Iverson is the youngest ringmaster in the history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus also the first African-American ringmaster. He lives on the train with his wife, Pricilla, a fellow performer, and their two children, Matthew Felipe and Lila Simone

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