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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Elephants at Saginaw's Castle Museum?


Jeff Schrier The Saginaw News

"Under the Big Top" is a new exhibit at The Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 505 Federal in Saginaw. The centerpiece of the exhibit features a miniature display carved by John Mackay titled "Mighty Small Circus." There are also artifacts and exhibits from Saginaw's own circus history.
Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2011

By Sue White The Saginaw News

Growing up in Newark, N.J., Judy Tierney didn't think her father's hand-carved circus was anything special.
"When you're around it every day, it just becomes part of your life," Tierney said of John MacKay's 1,200-piece display, now on exhibit at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History.
"We just thought everyone had a circus in their house. It seemed natural."
But visitors to "Under the Big Top," which includes the late Mackay's workbench where he worked up to 40 hours on the circus miniatures, will understand Tierney's new appreciation and her eagerness to share it through a traveling exhibit.
"My dad was born in 1901, not far from the circus grounds in Syracuse, New York," she said. "Back then, it was a big deal when the circus came to town — there wasn't a lot of entertainment available — and his father would always take him and his brother to the show


Jeff Schrier The Saginaw News

One display at "Under the Big Top" features artifacts from the Flying Melzoras acrobatic trapeze artists.

It was years later, after moving to Newark and taking a high-stress job with Bell Telephone Laboratories, that Mackay's doctor suggested he take up a hobby.
"He liked to work with wood, though I'm not sure if he had carved before,” she said. “But in 1946, he met a man from the Circus Model Builders and that's when it all came together."
The organization had a "ring," as chapters were called, in Newark, and by 1966, he had finished most of his 28-foot-by-4-foot display.
"But you know how it goes with hobbies; he kept adding more," Tierney said. "I love the stories that go with the scenes. The people in the group really did their research, and my dad would use pictures from the circus to get an accurate feel to it."
One he depicts is a circus wagon that was mired in mud after a heavy rain. The circus people first added another hitch to the wagon, and then, when that didn't work, brought an elephant around to pull it out.
"In the parade, look for George Washington and generals Lee and Grant," she said. "Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill Cody are in the Wild West part. It's all very unique, being in the same scale and hand-carved.
"It's a piece of art."read more:http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/saginaw/index.ssf/2011/08/under_the_big_top.html

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