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Friday, December 23, 2011





Bex Bros. Circus at Penobscot Marine Museum




Les Bex handcarved this well-observed acrobatic elephant for his Bex Bros. Circus, part of Penobscot Marine Museum's "The Circus Comes to Town" winter exhibition.

The Big Top on a small scale

By Dagney C. Ernest Dec 23, 2011

Searsport — Capt. Les Bex is spending time with some old friends this winter, and he is sharing the experience with the Midcoast community. Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport has mounted a multi-media exhibition called "The Circus Comes to Town" and the crown jewel of the exhibit is the Bex Bros. Circus, a display of miniatures Bex has been working on for decades.
The Bex Bros. Circus was a regular feature at the dollhouse shows put on for many years by the Camden Lions Club and it also used to show up at local schools and in shop windows. But 25 years ago, Bex packed most of it away and put it into a storage unit … well, maybe not every piece.
"I've had bits and pieces out, but not the whole thing … even now, this is probably half of it," he said on a recent day at the Camden Snow Bowl, where he has served on the ski patrol for 17 years and is waiting for the ski season to begin.


"Trust", a painting by Alan Fishman, is on loan for "The Circus is in town"

But early last spring, Bex showed photos of his circus at the Owls Head Transportation Museum's Midcoast Model Festival. Ben Fuller, curator at Penobscot Marine, saw them and suggested the Bex Bros. Circus might make for a wonderful off-season display at the Searsport museum.
"I hesitated for a long time, but they talked me into it," said Bex, who for many years has run a seasonal day-trip business aboard the Betselma, a classic wooden scallop dragger that sails out of Camden Harbor.
When Bex, Fuller and museum volunteer John Eastman went to the storage facility, they found boxes and boxes of figurines and set pieces. Bex said the figurines are a combination of Britains Zoo people and animals, plastic toys and wooden carvings. He said he finds them at train shows, Goodwill, the Salvation Army store and yard sales. He often repaints them, and many end up playing other roles than those they were created for.

"I take 'em and make 'em do what I want. The guys who are tightening up the stake lines used to be Civil War soldiers. I broke up a marching band for the musicians, and the waiters in the dining tent used to be women," he said.
Bex has carved many a horse and elephant from wood during the winters, on the boat and as he sat on the Camden dock waiting for customers.
"People would come up and offer to buy them, but I said no, they're not for sale," said Bex.
Bex has a soft spot for elephants — he remembers the Robert Bros. pachyderm by name because "I knew her when she was just a punk" — and he is a proponent of the somewhat controversial Hope Elephant project that plans to bring a retired circus elephant to the Midcoast for physical therapy.

Capt. Les Bex (Photo by: Dagney C. Ernest)

"I think Jim Laurita's got a great idea and it's good for the elephants. The opposition's arguments are 70 years old and unfounded," he said.read more at: http://waldo.villagesoup.com/ae/story/the-big-top-on-a-small-scale/473997#

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