Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ringling Bros, Sarasota - March 17, 1956

Today I thought I'd share a few fun photos from Sarasota, Florida, where the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus had their winter headquarters (established in 1927). It makes sense, since so much of the USA gets hit with harsh winters; why not find a sunny, warm place to relax? The circus folk didn't just sit around eating bonbons and watching soap operas though - they still performed for crowds of fellow snowbirds.

This first photo is neat, I love the group of people on the back of that elephant - you can almost imagine the swaying, slightly bumpy ride that they are experiencing. The word "Gajasala" is Hindi, and means "elephant stable". 

In another area, folks gather around to watch all kinds of performers doing their thing. Before I zoom in for a closer look, I am noticing some horses out in that field, grazing happily; presumably these are the same horses that pull the wagons or prance in parades during shows.

Well, looks like just about everybody is here! The strong man, beautiful showgirls, clowns, the lion tamer, an acrobat, and (since there is a low tightrope), even an incognito tightrope walker or two. 

Go ahead, reach into the cage and pet the lions! What's the worst that could happen?

Considering that March 17th was a Saturday, crowds are pretty sparse - but then again, there are plenty of jackets, sweaters, and babushkas, so maybe it was chilly by Florida standards. The elephants don't seem to mind. I wish I had scanned the photo of the baby elephant who could fly (I think I can see a little mouse in his cap), but I forgot to.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey winter headquarters!


Nanook said...


What a motley group of circus folk. Wait... is there any other kind-?

And the colors - sure looks like Kodachrome at its finest.

And if we are to believe the Weather Underground, the max. temp in Sarasota that day was 67°. Perhaps beginning the day with a "frosty" 52° brought out all the sweaters and babushkas-! (It IS Florida, after all-!)

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

*pours round of vodka*

But even with all the babushkas, pillboxes, beanies, and other styling headgear, I can't take my eyes off that scalloped red-and-white sombrero-like hat on the one showgirl. She looks like a big, tasty peppermint confection!

My first childhood trip to Florida was in February, and I was shocked to see how many Southerners (including my transplanted uncle, aunt, and cousin) were bundled up in sweaters, jackets, and hats when we New York tourists were all hanging out in t-shirts and feeling balmy.

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-

That "hat" seems to be the Ringling Brothers less-colorful and fruitless answer to that get-up Carmen Miranda wore in "The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat" number, from The Gang's All Here (1943), another crazy film from Busby Berkeley. Besides the incredible costumes, the film is also noted for the (Academy Award-nominated Art Direction), use of intense colors - making most other Technicolor films blush with envy.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I don't know, I thought they looked pretty clean cut! Not like those carnies, stay away from them. The Weather Underground knows about bombing, and historical weather facts!

Melissa, yes, that lady's hat is pretty spectacular. She's not too shabby either! I'll never forget going to LAX when I was a kid, and seeing some Asians (somehow I think they were from Vietnam) were wearing down jackets and cold weather gear, even though L.A. was warm that day.

Nanook, I am sure that Ringing Bros. was influenced by Busby Berkeley, how could they NOT be? He was huge.

outsidetheberm said...

These are wonderful. The professional photographer(s) to the left in the second image might indicate a promotional film shoot is in the works. Heck, everyone's there - and the photographer is directing the action, it seems!

Major Pepperidge said...

outsidetheberm, he does look like he's carrying a professional setup, doesn't he? I suppose he could use be a serious hobbyist, but it seems unlikely.