The Circus Historical Society has announced that Chris Berry has won the 2020 Stuart Thayer Prize. The Thayer Prize is named for renowned circus historian Stuart Thayer whose writings on circus history inspired generations of follow on advocates.
This year’s prize was awarded for Berry’s article Greatest Shows on Earth that appeared in the Society’s journal, Bandwagon, in late 2019. The piece examined the creation of a second unit of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey under the direction of Irvin Feld. The selection committee praised Berry’s extensive research, lucid writing, and the use of fascinating interviews with individuals who were involved in the significant event.
Circus Historical Society Trustee Chris Berry’s two passions are broadcasting and the circus — though not necessarily in that order. Growing up just outside of Sarasota, at an early age Berry had the opportunity to meet some of the great circus stars of the 20th century and the fire was lit. By the time he was 14, he was a member of the Circus Historical Society and a regular volunteer at the old Circus Hall of Fame. His interest in circus history and expertise in the area of circus lithographs blossomed as he learned and was mentored by some of the most respected circus historians of the time. After a career with CBS and ABC where he held executive positions in Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York and Chicago – Berry now is a Senior Vice President at iHeartMedia where he divides his time between gathering and distributing the news of today, and the studying the history of the circus in America.
Berry will receive a monetary award and a commemorative plaque. A presentation ceremony, normally held during the Society’s annual convention, has been delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis.
For the record, previous winners of the Stuart Thayer Prize include:
2012 – Richard Georgian, Cossacks, Indians and Buffalo Bill (Book)
2013 – Frederik Schodt, Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan and Japan to the West (Book)
2014 – Kevin Duncan Wall, The Ordinary Acrobat (Book)
2016 – David Carlyon,The Education of a Circus Clown: Mentors, Audiences, Mistakes
2017 – Alex Albright, Mose McQuitty’s Band and Minstrel Days 1899-1937 (Bandwagon, Vol. 60 Issue 3)
Photos courtesy of The Circus Historical Society