Indiana’s Big Top Brings the Circus to Life at the Indiana State Library

Who doesn’t have at least one memory of cotton candy melting in your mouth as high fly acrobats perform jaw dropping feats? The circus is an experience every adult has had and loves to share with their children. This Thursday, January 21 from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis downtown learn about Indiana’s Big Top, our state’s rich circus history. Did you know that Peru, Indiana served as wintering grounds for one of the United States most famous circuses? Find out what life was like for Hoosiers hosting circus stars through the winter at this fun Indianapolis education event. This is a wonderful FREE opportunity to make history come to life in a fun way for your Indianapolis kids.

The Indiana State Library houses numerous circus related items, serving as a memorial to the history of the circus in Peru, Indiana. Traveling circuses would set up in fields or fill huge stadiums entertaining people across Indiana in the Summer months. Join Elisabeth O’Donnell, the Federal Documents Librarian, as she shares the vast history of Indiana’s Big Top with Indianapolis people Thursday night in the History Reference Room.

Visionary, Ben Wallace, established Peru, Indiana as the Circus Winter Quarters for the America’s biggest circuses. During the Winter months, the circus business was slow. Circus performers took the opportunity to repair and repaint wagons. New acts were work shopped in barns and old spaces. Animals were set to pasture in the fields of west Indiana in Peru. Thousands of horses would roamed about, as did exotic animals. It was not uncommon for Peru people to find zebras or camels grazing on snow covered ground. The people of Peru happily welcomed their Winter guests, passing by daily to see the amazing behind the scenes of the circus.

Today the former grounds of the Circus Winter Quarters has been transformed into a monument to their former glory. The Circus Hall of Fame keeps the rich tradition of the Circus alive in Peru, Indiana, connecting the Indiana city to a larger part of American history. The first circus came to the United States in 1793 in Philadelphia. By the middle of the nineteenth century, more than a half dozen circuses were touring coast to coast. American circuses created well known attributes of the circus today including the Big Top Tent, slap stick clown routines, circus trains, multiple ringed performances, equestrian feats and more.

Head to the Indiana State Library this Thursday for Indiana’s Big Top. Learn how Indiana helped to influence and support the national circus culture that consumed a population prior to instant entertainment like television, large multi-screen movie theatres and even radio. Join Elisabeth O’Donnell as she shares relics from this rich history up close at this FREE Indianapolis event. For more information about Indiana’s Big Top, or other Indianapolis entertainment at the Indiana State Library, visit their official website.

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Indiana’ Big Top
Thursday, January 21 at 5:30 pm

Indiana State Library
140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204