Ringling Museums in Sarasota FL

1/22/15 Thursday in Wauchula,FL (Peace River Preserve-TT)

Our first stop was “Howard Brothers Circus”- a miniature replica of an entire circus. From the placards: “Unlike anything you have ever seen, this 3,800 square foot model depicts the American tented circus in its Golden Age, from 1919-1938. More than 13,000 people could enjoy a performance under the Big Top.” “The circus traveled with over 1300 workers and performers, 800 animals, and all the equipment needed to put on a performance. In a season the show could travel over 15,000 miles and perform in 150 towns and cities all across America. Fewer than 20 of these dates were for more than a single day. The logistics of moving such a large organization is overwhelming and yet, the circus did it and still does it.” “The circus day began long before most people got out of bed. By 3 am the first of four sections of the massive circus train arrived in town. Called the flying squadron, this section carried the equipment and men to lay out the circus lot and set up the cooking tents.”

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“The Hotel flag was raised over the dining tent to signal to workers, staff and performers that it was mealtime, Each person with the circus had a designated seat at a table set with china plates, silverware, a water pitcher, condiments and bread with butter. To feed all of the personnel breakfast, lunch and dinner, the waiters would serve 3,900 meals daily.” It sure seems like the organization of a cruise.

Menagerie – all decorations were hand carved

Menagerie – all decorations were hand carved

The Big Top – in less than 4 hours the 6 center poles, 74 quarter poles, 122 sidewall poles, 550 stakes and 26,000 yards of canvas became the Big Top.

The Big Top – in less than 4 hours the 6 center poles, 74 quarter poles, 122 sidewall poles, 550 stakes and 26,000 yards of canvas became the Big Top.

There was an interactive circus area too, to learn about the various acts. Fun!

circus mini 8

In the Original Circus Museum we saw restored original pieces from the Ringling Brothers Circus, even the shop where they do the carving for restorations.

circus 1 circus 2 circus 3 circus 4

The history of the Ringling Brothers was fascinating. They were 5 of seven brothers (one sister) who started out simply, creating a circus from with only themselves as workers and performers. John was the front runner (set up the route, sent out the posters/advertisements) and lived the longest. He became wealthy because he diversified, investing in oil, railroads and real estate.

We also watched a film about John and Mable Ringling, who were childless but wished to leave a legacy to Sarasota, FL, their winter home. Before their deaths they had made it the winter home of the circus as well. John had high hopes to make Sarasota a destination vacation town, but the Depression cut that dream short. Still, this little town is on the map because of what they left here. They traveled in a train car: their personal RV when they accompanied the circus.

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They also traveled Europe to learn of new circus acts and to collect works of art for their mansion (Ca d’Zan) in Sarasota. Ca d’Zan is Venetian for House of John, although it was all Mable’s influence that built it (Venetian Gothic is the style).  See the color in the window panes? This was venetian glass, with powdered color placed inside the glass.

ca 1 ca 2 ca 3

The Tap Room, where John served alcohol he kept in a vault above Mabel's bedroom during the Depression.

The Tap Room, where John served alcohol he kept in a vault above Mabel’s bedroom during the Depression.

Mabel's bedroom and bathroom– real tatted lace on her bed. It looked out on her rose garden

Mabel’s bedroom and bathroom– real tatted lace on her bed. It looked out on her rose garden 

John's bedroom and bathroom– notice the butterfly image in the marble.

John’s bedroom and bathroom– notice the butterfly image in the marble.

Their Art Museum – built to hold the works they collected. A Spanish queen had originally commissioned Ruben to create tapistries for a St. Claire cloister, then she asked him to paint paintings based on those tapistries. John has 5 of those Ruben paintings.

art 1

Some of my favorite items:
art 2 art 3 art 4

In the last the story is that Fate (lady in green) is envious of the love between the young people, so she is cutting the thread of life of the lady.

We were pretty tired, with so much standing for the guided tours of the Circus, the Mansion and the Art Museum so off to home we went. Pam stopped by as we were getting supper ready. She’s going on the same cruise as our friends Greg and Marcia!! Such a small world. Wouldn’t you know, ours starts the week before, but we still can have a great time with Karen and Sherie.

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About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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