Outdated Burlington has all the time beloved a grand present — be it a band live performance within the park, a stage present on the Opera Home, or a road brawl on Entrance Road. Whatever the occasion or venue, given sufficient public discover you might all the time rely on an enthusiastic crowd.
This was very true for the arrival of the circus, and circuses had been an everyday characteristic within the city’s leisure calendar all through the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Promise the Burlington ticket-paying public some elephants, tigers and clowns after which throw in a girl acrobat in spangled tights and also you had been sure to attract a crowd.
The neighborhood’s love affair with the Large High started way back to 1846 when the Howie and Mabies Olympic Enviornment and U.S. Circus floated into city. Howie and Mabies had been intently adopted by I.W. French’s Nice Oriental Circus and Egyptian Caravan, the place audiences stood in line to spend a then breath taking fifty cents on an admission ticket.
That worth of admission was thought of cheap as a result of I.W. French had some world class acts. There was a workforce of geese skilled to tug a wash tub, Don Stone — “the clown of the period” — and La Bell Jeanette, “the perfect feminine rider on this planet.”
After all the newspapers would grumble that the circus was “the bottom type of leisure,” however that didn’t deter the Burlington crowd. Circuses grew to be such a worthwhile draw the James Johnson and P. Sells constructed a circus amphitheater on Market Road in 1867 and began their very own everlasting circus and equestrian firm.
A lot later, when the Hagenbeck and Wallace Present rolled into city in 1914, it handled the city to a grand parade that includes a herd of elephants that managed to unfold panic among the many horse groups on Jefferson Road. However what the Hagenbeck and Wallace Present is greatest remembered for is its afternoon present of that day.
The efficiency began late, due to the unlucky incident on Jefferson Road, however by 2 p.m., an estimated 5,000 spectators had crowded beneath the massive canvas tent the place they had been serenaded by the circus band. Many within the crowd had observed storm clouds gathering within the west however there was no consideration of canceling the present.
However when the clouds reached the Honest Grounds, it grew ominously darkish contained in the circus tent. The now apprehensive crowd grew silent as attendants scurried about turning on the gasoline lights after which the storm was on them. There was a low rumble of thunder after which a robust gust of wind brought on the tent the tent to pressure in opposition to its restraints after which it bellowed outward.
The Hawk Eye newspaper reported: “From halfway up the bleachers, a stout middle-aged lady stood up and shouted ‘my God the tent goes over.’ After which she bounded down the seats and out an exit with an agility that belied her girth.”
Then there was one other gust of wind, stronger than the primary, and the surging canvas lifted one of many middle helps skyward off its base to make threatening arcs over the middle ring.
The group gasped and rose to its ft, after which out of the blue the band threw apart its devices to make a splash to the closest exit. And the panic started. Kids screamed and there have been shouts as the group surged over the seats and pressed in on the few slim exits.
Because the viewers started to spill from the principle tent, the menagerie tent close by collapsed from the buffeting. A lot of the spectators had already left the smaller tent however one man was compelled to make use of his jack knife to chop his means from beneath the canvas. Animal trainers rushed to the scene to quiet the frightened animals caught within the cages.
At that second, a driving downpour washed throughout the fairgrounds, drenching the group that was spilling from the large high. These nonetheless contained in the tent hesitated on the rush of water and calmer heads within the viewers started to recommend the tent was the most secure place to be.
The circus attendants now took up the cry urging patrons to return to their seats and slowly, considerably sheepishly, most individuals did return to the seats to attend out the storm within the doubtful security of the wildly flapping tent.
Nonetheless, those that ran from the tent had been now drenched by the storm, wind and rain. Mother and father herding squalling youngsters could possibly be seen working by the park and searching for shelter on the porches, parlors and out buildings of the encompassing residential neighborhood.
The storm was to finish as rapidly because it started. In lower than an hour, the solar poked by the clouds. Inside the nice tent the lights had been extinguished and the cowardly band picked up the music the place it had left off and it was present time.
However the thrills of the acrobats and lions couldn’t match the thrill that the group had already skilled.