Clowns, trained animals, the man on the flying trapeze – what kind of circus memories do you hold? Going to the circus has always been a favorite form of summer entertainment. Your group will enjoy some old-fashioned circus fun, as they reminisce about seeing a performance under the big top. Here are a few activities to stir some memories of the event.
- Reminisce about going to see the traveling circus with family. Ask: Did you enjoy the circus? What were your favorite acts? Was going to the circus a family tradition? Did you ever see the Cole Brothers, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey, or Clyde Beatty Circus? Tell us about the event.
- Throw a “Circus” theme party, complete with a big top tent and colorful costumes.
- Play a recording of circus or calliope music. Enjoy favorites such as “Thunder and Blazes,” “Entry of the Gladiators,” “Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite,” and “Be a Clown.”
- Learn the history of Barnum’s Animal Crackers (1902), also called “circus crackers.” Ask participants if they remember hanging the cookie box with a string attached to it on the Christmas tree. Sample this favorite childhood snack.
- Intergenerational fun: Hold a circus animal walk (children can dress up in animal costumes such as lion, elephant, pony, dog, horse). Play animal charades or make balloon animals.
- Ask a performer to demonstrate some simple juggling skills for your group – with two or three balls.
- Organize a pet show with dog tricks. A favorite with the crowd: dogs jumping through hoops.
- Look at vintage circus posters and postcards. Make your own colorful posters advertising the circus – “The circus is coming to town.” Name your circus and include information about circus acts and animals.
- Enjoy a circus snack: animal crackers, popcorn, cotton candy, roasting peanuts, corn dogs, and ice cream.
- Ask if anyone in the group ever dreamed of running away to join the circus when they were kids. Discuss the appeal of circus life.
- Watch the award-winning 1952 movie The Greatest Show on Earth, starring Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, and James Stewart. The film was directed by Cecil B. DeMille.
- Try a simple circus act: walk the tightrope (if participants are able). Put masking tape in a straight line on the floor and encourage group members to go forward and backward.
- Dress up as a ringmaster – coat with tails and a large top hat. Hold a contest to see who can imitate the circus ringmaster the best – “Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages!”
- Read about the early circus with showman P.T. Barnum. Share some of his quotations with the group.
- Paint clown faces on volunteers. Add a bright wig. Name the clowns and vote on silliest design.
CIRCUS TRIVIA QUIZ
- The person who directs the performances in a circus ring is called what? The ringmaster
- What is the large main tent of a traveling circus called? The Big Top
- Emmett Kelly was a famous circus clown. What was the name of his tramp clown figure?Weary Willie
- Name some common acts in the circus. Clowns, animal acts, trapeze artists, jugglers, stilt walkers, tightrope walkers, tumblers, unicyclists. (Other answers are possible.)
- What circus show was promoted as “The Greatest Show on Earth”? Barnum and Bailey’s Circus – three ring
- What was the name of Barnum & Bailey’s famous circus elephant act? Jumbo
- Who was Clyde Beatty? Famous animal trainer and circus owner
- What is a three-ring circus? Three acts taking place simultaneously in three different circus rings
- According to the song lyrics, what type of young man flies through the air with the greatest of ease on his trapeze? Daring (“The Man on the Flying Trapeze”)
- Why do tightrope walkers use a long pole? To help maintain balance
“CIRCUS MEMORIES” written by Sue Hansen. © 2010 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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