Local History Brings Circus Fans To Town | WGLT

Local History Brings Circus Fans To Town

Apr 16, 2018

For the very first time, the Circus Fans Association of America is holding its annual convention this week in Bloomington-Normal, a community that was once called the Trapeze Capital of the World, owing to the number of flyers who originated in the Twin Cities.

One of the thousands of costumes on display at Milner Library. There's an accompanying photo of the performer actually wearing this remarkably preserved costume.
Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT

The convention is April 18-21. Fans are set to enjoy circus past, with lectures and exhibitions, and circus present, with a performance by Illinois State University's Gamma Phi Circus, one of the oldest collegiate circuses in the world. The Circus Fans Association aims to support, encourage and preserve circus as an art form.

Most of the convention's activities will happen at the Hyatt in Uptown Normal, including papers to be presented regarding people from Bloomington who went on to become important contributors to the legacy of the circus, including Pawnee Bill and The Flying Wards. 

Illinois State University has a vast collection of circus material in Milner Library, including costumes, photographs, equipment and more. Special items from the collection will be on display during the convention, including a costume from 1889. It belonged to an acrobat, and includes a photograph from that time period of the performer, believed to be F.F. Welsh or Chester Parsons, wearing the costume on display.  

On Saturday afternoon, Special Collections at Milner Library is hosting an open house to show off its collection to the circus fans. According to Special Collections librarians, the display is just the tip of the iceberg of the thousands of items in the collection and a rare opportunity for circus fans to get an upclose glimpse of history.

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