Back in 1955 Floyd King, a long time Circus operator, decided that it would be practical to resurrect the old fashioned circus parade. As far as I can tell, the last BIG circus to have street parades had been Cole Bros. For awhile, they did manage to put on street parades, before the afternoon performances, but even Cole Bros. finally gave up because of the hassles of obtaining Police Permits, battling modern day traffic and putting too much strain on both the workers and performers.
Mr. King figured that he could still beat the odds and, as the following pictures show, KING BROS CIRCUS actually was able to present a street parade as well as two circus performances every day.
According to the late Joe Bradbury, a well-known circus historian, KING BROS. was the last tented circus giving daily performances and parading on a daily basis. However, your webmaster has recently seen an Auburn, NY newspaper ad for the AL G. KELLY AND MILLER BROS. WILD ANIMAL CIRCUS, with a performance date of June 28, 1963 that says "First Time In A Quarter Century. Daily Downtown Street Parade. 1 P.M." At any rate, here are views of one of the last really old fashioned Circus Street Parades.
These photos were snapped July 9, 1955 at the point where Saginaw St. and Oakland Avenue meet near the north end of the Pontiac Michigan business district. Thus, the parade route did not quite reach the center of the city. Nevertheless, since the showgrounds were at the north edge of the city limits, the parade route was still a long one. It came south on Saginaw, made a sharp turn and headed back north via Oakland Ave.
Charlie Luckey constructed this bright red Bandwagon especially for King Bros. Circus. The gilt paint was applied by King's own Bandmaster, Lee Hinckley. In the early 1970's, after it was no longer required for parade use, this Bandwagon, which was the last built for use by a tented traveling circus giving daily performances and daily street parades, was purchased by Charles Hanson and donated to the CIRCUS WORLD MUSEUM in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Needless to say, the King Bros. parade was a costly affair and, unfortunately, it could not be repeated the following season.
Barnett Bros., a motorized show, had a parade in Birmingham, Michigan in 1930 and also one in Pontiac, Michigan in 1936.
Although parades were not a routine event with Beatty/Cole, at the time, circus fan Hilly Munson reports the following information. "In June of 1980 in New Bedford, MA, a very big circus city, the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus had a street parade thru downtown. The streets were full, and all of the schools let out so their kids could see this event. At noon the sirens wailed for the daily test, and the elephants trumpetted with their displeasure. The New Bedford HS band led the parade and the local city and circus officials followed. Then all the elephants, clowns, and many performers. They also used the bible flatbed trailer and had acrobats aboard. The following year they had an elephant race with local disk jockeys aboard for the circus fans of this great city. This parade was not an everyday event, but New Bedford was a large circus city for many years."
The Milwaukee parades with wagons from the CIRCUS WORLD MUSEUM bring back fond memories of past glories, but they are not true street parades in the sense that they are part of the day to day operation of a real honest to goodness circus.
By now, the downtown parade has broken up and this unit is on
its way back to the show grounds. Since it is doubtful that the
show carried so many young musicians, these are probably
part of a local school band riding this heavy flatbed trailer.
Some of the colorfully dressed girls behind the band may well be peformers.
Your webmaster can only guess their identities.
On the next page you can see one of the larger old time railroad shows, COLE BROS. CIRCUS, setting up in PONTIAC, MICHIGAN during the summer of 1944.
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