By Brian D. Bridgeford, News Republic Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2011 3:30 am
If you love the circus, but can't afford scores of performers and animals, huge tents and your own train, you can still make one in miniature, at that's how a group of circus model enthusiasts visiting Circus World this weekend feel.
Today beginning 9 a.m. and continuing until 6 p.m. and through Sunday starting at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., fans of circus models from as far as Australia will have 33 exhibits on display in the Deppe Wagon Pavilion at Circus World.
Museum visitors may see the model exhibit for the normal price of admission.
The enthusiasts construct their creations in scales ranging from as small as 1/16 of an inch to a full one inch to the foot, said Chris Grieder of Circus Model Builders. He said he became interested in circuses through a model-building friend and also participated with Circus World and the Great Milwaukee Circus Parade.
"I was actually the water boy on the Great Circus Parade, loading and unloading on the train crew for several years," he said.
Grieder's display, built with the help of his grandfather, Roy Grieder, is a HO-scale sideshow tent with elaborately painted signs advertising the various sideshow performers and their acts. The stages inside are assembled with meticulous attention to detail, he said.
"They're actually built with the jacks underneath them, not just blocks of wood," Grieder said. "If we took off the stripped pieces of fabric we have there you would see how they were really built."
Veteran circus model builder and Great Circus Parade participant Walter Heist displays his model of riverboat he said carried a fully-assembled circus tent and circus performers from river town to river town in the early 1900s. Brian D. Bridgeford / News Republic
Models on display ranged from large tabletop re-creations of an entire circus grounds to models of performance rings and individual circus wagons.
Evergreen, Ill. resident Jim Putz and his grandson, Mark Kozeluh, 3, looked at a model of circus rings in which the performers actually moved. He said he originally came to enjoy the museum exhibits and circus performance, only to discover the model exhibit.
"I didn't even know they were here. It's very interesting," he said. "Look at the size of them."
Australian circus fan Wayne Cordell said he visited the United States several times during the late 1980s and in 1991, rode the Great Circus Train and got a taste for building circus models.
"I was an attendant to the pigmy hippopotamus, whose name at the time was Betty Lou," he said with laugh.
Twenty years later, Cordell said he is back to enjoy the circus, circus models and the company of fellow enthusiasts again. His creation is a quarter-inch scale model of the modern Chipperfield's Circus of England.
"I'm back home, second home," he said.
Circus World Singing Ringmaster David SaLoutos said one show participant is Walter Heist of Pennsylvania, one of the founders of the model circus builder's gathering.
One of Heist's models is a paddleboat called the Southern Belle he said pushed a fully-assembled circus tent and performers from town to town along the Mississippi River during the early 1900s.
"It's actually several barges laced together and the tent put on it," he said. "They never took the tent down. It stayed up as you see it," Heist said.