Fleeton Year of Adventure travel blog

Entrance to the Ringling Museums

Scale model of an early 1900's travelling Ringling Bros. circus - 1:24...

Close-up of part of the circus model

Original circus wagon

The calliope wagon, which always ended a circus parade

The band wagon, with built in stands and drums (note the altitude...

One of clown Emmett Kelly's costumes

One of the costumes in the museum collection

Another costume - this one for an elephant

The Ringlings' mansion on the ocean shore

Rear of the mansion with it's dock

Large display of Rubens paintings at the art museum

Dunedin Statdium, the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays

We left our campground at Pine Island and headed to Sarasota. Sarasota was the winter home and training grounds for the Ringling Brothers Circus for many, many years. John Ringling, the last of the original brothers and the main organizer of the circus, had made a huge fortune by investing his circus money into real estate, railways, and other sources. He and his wife built a huge, Venetian mansion on the waterfront, and when they had no children and the family around him was shrinking, Ringling left his money to form a huge art museum. Now the estate on the waterfront includes the mansion, lots of gardens, the art museum, and several buildings full of circus history. I thought that the art museum would be much more interesting, but we were enthralled by the circus exhibits. There was a huge 1:24 scale model of the whole travelling circus as it moved by railway and wagon during the 1920s and 1930s, and was brilliantly detailed. The building also included a basic history of European and North American circuses, including Barnum, Wild Bill's wild west shows, etc. The old site at Sarasota was where much of the footage came from for Cecile B. DeMille's "Greatest Show on Earth" with Charlton Heston et al, and the museum included some of the props, as well as a great deal of the real old circus equipment. The art museum was huge and full of wonderful paintings such as a visiting display of Rubens, a few Canalettos, and many more. We were rather rushed through it, having spent too much time with the Circus displays. After we finished at the gift shop (!) we headed over to St. Petersburg, and it's nearby town of Dunedin where we finally found the home park of the Toronto Blue Jays spring training camp. We then spent the night in the closest Wal-Mart parking lot.

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