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2021 Circus Historical Society Convention

Posted by: Bruce Hawley
Posted on: June 16, 2021
Category: Conference/Convention
Type: In Person
2021 Circus Historical Society Convention - Circus Events - CircusTalk
The Circus Historical Society will hold its 2021 Convention from September 19 to 22 at the Trumbull Marriott near Bridgeport, Connecticut . . . home of the Barnum Museum and several other historic circus sites! In addition to tours of the museum and the local historic circus sites, the convention will also include optional excursions to Circus Hermanos Vasquez, the Hartford Circus Fire Memorial and the Big E Circus Spectacular!

Although Connecticut has eliminated its COVID restrictions, to facilitate social distancing, the Marriott increased the size of our meeting space substantially. They are also recommending that guests who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask in public spaces in the hotel.

Register early to secure your place at this exciting convention and to save on registration fees! Discounted early bird registrations end on July 1, 2021. The last day to reserve your room at the convention rate is August 19, 2021.

Convention Program

Sunday convention activities will begin with the opening of the convention Registration Desk and Sales Room at noon. In addition to private vendors of circus-related books, posters, etc. and a Sunday-only exhibition of John Rezuke’s amazing model of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train, the Sales Room will include the new CHS Bookstore. The CHS Bookstore will be selling used circus books, programs, DVDs, and other items that were donated to the CHS for fundraising. There will also be book signings by the authors of recently published circus books including Les Standiford author of Battle for the Big Top (2021) and Dawn Ragola author of When the Circus Came to Town (2020). The Sales Room will also be open on Monday and Tuesday.

In addition, there will be a short Circus Film Festival on Sunday afternoon! Included will be a special showing of a documentary by independent film maker Corey Boutilier about the creation of a recent Barnum sculpture entitled: P.T. Barnum: The Lost Legend. There will also be videos by Joseph Dougherty, that chronicles the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, day and dating of Royal American Shows in Edmonton Canada, and David Johnson, that shows highlights of the set-up, performance, and tear-down of the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus under canvas in Fishkill, NY in 1993.

The Gala Opening Reception, which will include a buffet, cash bar and live entertainment provided by long-time CHS member Joe Barney, will begin at 7:00 PM.

Monday will be filled with a wide variety of fascinating presentations!

Here is a summary:

Kathleen Maher, Executive Director of the Barnum Museum, “Welcome to Bridgeport and Barnum Country!”

Former Ringling clown and author David Carlyon, “Gilded Age Ideas about Children Re-Invented the Circus.”

Dr. Sarah Johnson from the Somers Historical Society, “Zebras in the Barn: Circus Life in Putnam and Westchester Counties.”

Dawn Rogala of the Smithsonian Museum, author book talk on When the Circus Came to Town.”

Javier Hurtado Tufts University PhD candidate, “History of Mexican Circuses.”

Milwaukee Librarian Amelia Osterude, “The Worse Season Ever: Nathans & Co. 1883.”

Old Dominion University PhD student Aíne Murphy Norris and Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival executive director Dawn Tucker, "Re-Introducing Aerialist Eva Clark: How We Abolished 114 Years of Lore."

Attorney and Barnum Museum board member Betsy Golden Kellem, “Legal Aspects of the Yankee Circus on Mars!”

CHS member Patrick Bracy, “Rose Killian: First American Woman Circus Owner & Sole Proprietor.”

A circus history presentation by Professor Janet Davis, University of Texas at Austin.

“Research on the potential to identify clowns in photographs using facial recognition machine learning techniques,” Kyle Monahan, Irene Chang and Xiaoyang Zou of Tufts University.

Australian CHS member Margaret Kirby, “American Circus Performers in Asia: 1859-1866,”

Wini McKay and Chester Cable of the LA Circus company, “Production of Historic Primetime Circus Television Shows.”

The Circus Historical Society Annual Banquet will begin at noon on Monday. The banquet speaker will be University of Bridgeport Professor Eric Lehman. Professor Lehman will speak about his book: Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P. T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity. Much of the research for Professor Lehman’s book was done at the Barnum Museum.

On Monday evening, subject to any COVID restrictions and for an additional charge, conventioneers will have an option to attend the 7:30 PM performance of the fabulous Circus Hermanos Vazquez in Paramus, New Jersey!

Tuesday will begin with the premier of a new video from Lane Talburt about the Art Concello and Frank McClosky management of the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus in 1966. The video will be followed by these additional presentations.

Historian and CHS board member Richard “Dick” Flint, the “Rise & Fall of the Zoological Institute.”

CHS board member Bruce Hawley, “Bridgeport Connecticut: Home of the Greatest Show on Earth for Almost Half a Century!”

New York Times-bestselling author and professor Les Standiford, Battle for the Big Top: The Circus and the American Dream.

Adrienne Saint-Pierre, Curator of the Barnum Museum, “Overview of the Barnum Museum and the Bridgeport History Center Circus Collections.”

After lunch on their own, the group will travel to Bridgeport to take a private tour of the Barnum Museum, which is currently undergoing renovations. The group will also have an opportunity to view circus posters and other artifacts at the nearby Bridgeport History Center.

Conventioneers will then drive to Mountain Grove Cemetery to see the gravesites of P. T. Barnum and Tom Thumb. Next up will be a “windshield tour” of beautiful Seaside Park where the impressive Barnum memorial statue overlooks Long Island Sound, and then Wendt Field, which was the home of the Barnum & Bailey winter quarters for almost 50 years. After the field trip, the group will return to the hotel for the traditional CHS Annual Auction of posters, books, artifacts, and other circus-related memorabilia.

CHS board member and former president of the Eastern States Exposition Wayne McCary will also prepare the group for Wednesday’s activities by giving a brief presentation on the history of the Big E and the Big E Circus Spectacular.

Wednesday will be Big E Day! Subject to any COVID restrictions and for an additional charge, conventioneers will have the option to visit the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield Massachusetts and attend a performance of The Big E Circus Spectacular. Note: As of mid-June, the Big E has not announced whether the circus performance will be in a tent or an open air performance. On the way to the Big E, the group will stop in Hartford for a tour of the 1944 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Fire Memorial in Hartford. The tour will be conducted by Don Massey, author of A Matter of Degree, The Hartford Circus Fire and The Mystery of Little Miss 1565.

Conventioneers who choose not to go to the Big E on Wednesday can return to the Barnum Museum and/or the Bridgeport History Center on their own to spend more time exploring their collections.

Call for Auction Items

Several posters, books, photographs, and other interesting items have already been donated to the CHS for sale at the Annual Auction. If you would like to donate items for sale at the Auction, send an e-mail with a list of the items to: [email protected]

Other Nearby Activities

Conventioneers can also travel on their own to visit other circus-related attractions in the area including the Beinecke Rare Book Library and Peabody Museum at Yale University in New Haven and the historic Elephant Hotel in Somers, New York.

Convention Registration

The early bird convention Registration Fee for CHS members and their spouse/guest is $190 each. The non-member Registration Fee, which includes a new CHS membership, is $250 per person. The Registration Fee for full-time students is $100.

There will be an additional Late Fee of $25 for all registrations received after July 1, 2021 and before September 17, 2021. There will be a $50 Late Fee for all on-site registrations. The Registration Fee does not include admission and bus transportation to either Circus Hermanos Vazquez or the Big E. Tickets to Circus Hermanos Vazquez are $30 each. Roundtrip bus fare to that circus is $30 each. Tickets to the Big E, which includes the Big E Circus Spectacular, are $12 each. The roundtrip bus fare to The Big E is $30 each.

Online Attendance

The Monday morning and afternoon presentation sessions and the Tuesday morning presentation session will be streamed online via Zoom. The Registration Fee for members and non-members to the online sessions is $50.

Registration Procedure

To register, select the REGISTER button on this page. Both Members and Non-Members can attend this convention. CHS Members who are not already logged in to the members-only section of the Back Yard should select My Profile in the menu bar to log in and register at the reduced Member Rate under the Events tab.

You can either pay with your credit card on this site, or mail your check to the Circus Historical Society, P.O. Box 220643, Dorchester, MA 02122. Checks should be made payable to the "Circus Historical Society." If you are mailing a check instead of using your credit card, please register online before mailing your check.

Cancellation Refund Policy

100% if cancellation notice received by CHS Secretary-Treasurer before August 1 - 50% from August 2 to August 31 - No refund after August 31.

Hotel Reservations

Convention attendees will receive a reduced room rate of only $125 per night (plus taxes) at the Trumbull Marriott. That rate incudes free parking and breakfast for two. Since some people may want to arrive earlier or stay later, the Trumbull Marriott will honor that rate for three days before September 19 and for three days
Date: Sept. 19, 2021 -
Sept. 22, 2021

12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Timezone: (UTC-5) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
Languages: English Online event URL:
Location: Barnum Museum & Trumbull Marriott
180 Hawley Lane
Trumbull
United States

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