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Circus City - The World's Greatest Amateur Circus

Updated on December 3, 2014

So You Want To See a Real Circus?

In the late 1800's and early 1900s the circus was a very popular form of entertainment. Traveling from town to town, they brought their shows filled with exotic animals, daring performers, and rousing music to adoring crowds.

One town in Indiana, USA proudly celebrates it's circus heritage every year. If you want to see a circus come to life in a small town big top, to see amateurs learning the craft, and to learn more of the history of the circus in the US, a visit to "Circus City" Peru, Indiana will be memorable.

A Visit to Peru Indiana

For a number of years, I had seen occasional news articles about a circus training camp and performance in Peru, Indiana. Finally, in the summer of 2008, I decided to make the trek to this small town to see it for myself. I had been to larger, modern circuses and even visited the Ringling Brothers museum in Sarasota, Florida many years before, but I must admit the Peru Amateur circus was a different experience, a rather authentic and memorable event.

This page will give you a bit of background and a taste of what this town, otherwise known as Circus City, and it's annual festival offer for the young and old alike.

Peru Amateur Circus: An Off Season Visit

A Bit of History

The circus came to Peru, Indiana in 1884 as local businessman, Colonel Ben Wallace brought his show to town. Although his show traveled around a multi-state area, it always returned to Peru to winter. As the cirus grew, it became known as the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus and was considered a competitor to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey shows.

After the demise of the Hagenbeck-Wallace show, other circuses used the Peru site for shows and wintering, including the brief presence of the Ringling Brothers circus, until the 1930s.

The love affair with the circus continued however, and in 1960 the Circus City Festival began which includes performances by the amateur circus.

The Circus City Festival

The Circus City Festival occurs for 10 days in July each year. It includes rides, games, food, entertainment, arts & crafts and much more. The parade includes authentic wagons, a calliope, floats, bands, clowns and other items of interest.

One of the primary highlights of the Circus City festival of course is the circus performance itself. At least 10 performances are held each year and include a variety of acts from juggling and unicycles to trapeeze and highwire acts. It's a three hour long, three ring circus complete with clowns and a full circus band that plays nearly non-stop.

The beautifully costumed performers consist of 250 local area residents, most of them between 7 and 21 years of age. The band, a mix of amateur and professional musicians is also comprised of many area residents although there are some who come from across the country to volunteer their time and talents.

These performers have made a serious commitment to the show. They begin practicing in March, perform a fairly grueling schedule during the July Circus City Festival Days, travel to surrounding states for additional performances, and even participate in an international competition in Monte Carlo each January.

Peru Amateur Circus: See the Flying Trapeze Performance

Peru Amateur Circus: See the Single Cradle Performance

Peru Amateur Circus: See the Unicycle Performance

The International Circus Hall of Fame

The International Circus Hall of Fame will not be the grandest building you've ever entered. However, it is filled to the brim with circus history and memorabilia. Costumes, photographs, authentic equipment, and news stories from the heydey of the circus are on display for everyone to enjoy.

The museum is located next to the big top where the Amateur Circus is held and can be visited from May 1 through October 31st. (see the website for specific hours)

Peru Amateur Circus: Near Disaster Before the 2008 Shows - All of the Animals Were Out!

Peru Big Top

Scheduled Circus City Festival Days

If an authetic amateur circus and festival sounds like your style, you can visit Peru on the follow dates:

July 11-18, 2015

July 16-23, 2016

You can get tickets in advance by visiting the Circus City Festival site.

Finding the Circus City Festival and International Circus Hall of Fame

A markerInternational Circus Hall of Fame -
3076 E. Circus Lane, Peru, IN 46970.
get directions

Photo Credits

Introduction and A Bit of History: Valerie Everett.

A Visit to Peru, Indiana: Crystl.

The Circus City Festival: Tanakawho

Circus City: Have you seen the Amateur Circus or would you like to see it?

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    • profile image

      Virginia 2 years ago

      Liebe Heike, das ist ja herrlich. Heute Frfch habe ich noch das Rezept in Lust auf Genuss gleseen und fcber's Nachbacken nachgedacht. Und jetzt entdecke ich Deinen Blog und die schf6nen zuse4tzlichen Bilder. Ich LIEBE das Internet Herzlichen Glfcckwunsch zu Cup und Beitrag. Ich finde die hier gezeigten Fotos noch viel ansprechender, ehrlich gesagt. Was ffcr einen Wein gab's denn dazu (s. 1. Bild) Oder war der nur Deko?Liebe Grfcdfe, Julia

    • Louis Wery profile image

      Louis Wery 7 years ago from Sarasota, Florida USA

      Love this lens about the amateur circus. Thanks for mentioning my town of Sarasota on the west coast of Florida!

    • Terry Boroff profile image

      Terry Boroff (flipflopnana) 8 years ago from FL

      I have not been to a circus for years, what fun memories you have brought to me. Great lens, I enjoyed how you have put it together.

    • Karicor profile image

      Karicor 8 years ago

      As a kid I've always been excited when the Circus came to town. Too bad there are hardly any traditional circuses left for my kids to enjoy. This is a great lens that might inspire us to visit Circus City one day. Blessed by a SquidAngel today! ^:)^

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 8 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Very cool lens. I love the circus, and this would be so great to see.

    • ayngel boshemia profile image

      Ayngel Overson 8 years ago from Crestone, Co

      What a fun lens! Book wise I recommend "Water for Elephants" be added to your lens. It was a great book that took place behind the scenes of a depression era circus.

    • profile image

      Mayflowerblood 9 years ago

      This is fascinating.

    • Rich-H profile image

      Rich 9 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Wow! What a fun and informative lens. Very well put together. Thanks for the info!

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 9 years ago

      I lived in Indiana for 18 years of my life and never knew this was in Peru. Thanks, very interesting reading.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Very well put together! I have been there on one of my many "local vacations" and found it very interesting. You have been added to my Indiana group http://www.squidoo.com/groups/hoosiers and will be featured! Thank you!

    • RichLeighHD profile image

      RichLeighHD 9 years ago

      A very interesting and informative lens! I didn't know anything about this before I started reading, I certainly know a lot more now though! Thank you. :)

    • GypsyOwl profile image

      Deb Bryan 9 years ago from Chico California

      Delightful! :D I love the circus and this lens is such fun :D