Reunion Renews Interest in Circus World Memorabilia

This large 6 foot by 12 foot backdrop was restored and brought to the reunion by former Director of Facilities, Bill Hall. It was actually the large flag flying at the Circus World entrance.

This large 6-foot by 12-foot backdrop was restored and brought to the reunion by former Director of Facilities, Bill Hall. It was actually the large flag flying at the Circus World entrance.

With typical circus fanfare, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus World broke ground for its theme park on April 26, 1973. Irvin Feld, president of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc., was assisted by an elephant carrying a 15-foot shovel. The elephant, along with a herd of his elephant friends, all wore giant sized construction hard hats.

I took this photo of the elephants wearing construction hardhats at the groundbreaking of Circus World in 1973. The bright yellow hard hat was one of the many items on display at the reunion. It was restored by Billy Williams and brought to the reunion by Billy and his wife Karen.

I took this photo of the elephants wearing construction hardhats at the groundbreaking of Circus World in 1973.

The bright yellow hard hat was one of the many items on display at the reunion. It was restored by Billy Williams and brought to the reunion by Billy and his wife Karen.

The bright yellow hard hat was one of the many items on display at the reunion. It was restored by Billy Williams and brought to the reunion by Billy and his wife Karen.

Just a year later the Showcase for the Florida theme park opened to the public. Over the next 12 years, the attraction went through a number of changes. On May 13, 1986 it closed its doors forever. It was a sad day for many, especially those who had worked for the circus theme park.

I was fortunate to have served as the communications manager at Circus World in 1982. Last month, after almost 25 years, I joined with 150 former employees for a reunion in Kissimmee, Fla. near the site of the original park. We renewed old friendships and were entertained by some of the original performers who worked at the park. Many brought Circus World advertising items and historical artifacts to display.

When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus World Showcase opened in 1974, two poster invitations were mailed. This poster invited media and VIPs on February 20 for a preview and a free meal. In a newspaper interview, Irvin Feld said 600 were invited to attend this preview.

When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus World Showcase opened in 1974, two poster invitations were mailed. This poster invited media and VIPs on February 20 for a preview and a free meal. In a newspaper interview, Irvin Feld said 600 were invited to attend this preview.

These invitations were numbered in the lower corner and are valued at $50-$75.

These invitations were numbered in the lower corner and are valued at $50-$75.

A second invitation was mailed to others for free admission for the following day, February 21. These have a value of $30-$50. The Showcase was open to the general public on this same day and everyone who attended that day received a similar poster which had the graphic and the opening date in large text.

A second invitation was mailed to others for free admission for the following day, February 21. These have a value of $30-$50. The Showcase was open to the general public on this same day and everyone who attended that day received a similar poster which had the graphic and the opening date in large text.

There is a strong interest in collectibles from Circus World. As part of one of the reorganizations of the park, a new owner—James G. Monaghan—arranged for Guernsey’s to auction much of the park’s collection, including full-sized wagons and floats, many hand-carved miniatures and the 1921 Illinois Carrousel. Values of many of these items were many thousands of dollars, with the Illinois Carrousel valued at $500,000 to $600,000.

The Circus World Collection auction was conducted by Guernsey Feb 16 & 17, 1985. This 94-page catalog is valued at $25.

The Circus World Collection auction was conducted by Guernsey Feb 16 & 17, 1985. This 94-page catalog is valued at $25.

However, many lower priced collectibles from Circus World show up on internet auctions for much more affordable prices. In fact, the Guernsey’s Circus World Collection auction catalog is very desirable and is valued at only $25.

This colorful poster was an invitation to the media and VIPs to attend the historic ground breaking for Circus world. Those who attended the groundbreaking received a paper weight and media kit which contained numerous informational releases and photos about the park. The Media Kit and Paper Weight are valued at $25-$30. The poster is valued at $50 to $75.

This colorful poster was an invitation to the media and VIPs to attend the historic ground breaking for Circus world. Those who attended the groundbreaking received a paper weight and media kit which contained numerous informational releases and photos about the park. The Media Kit and Paper Weight are valued at $25-$30. The poster is valued at $50 to $75.

Irvin Feld was President of the traveling show and was listed as President and Chief Executive officer of Circus World when it opened. This business card is valued at $25-$30.

Irvin Feld was President of the traveling show and was listed as President and Chief Executive officer of Circus World when it opened. This business card is valued at $25-$30.

Tickets were designed to be collectible. In fact the words “Collector Series Ticket” were printed on the large portion of the ticket which was retained by the attendee. These are three different types of tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus World Showcase. One is marked “C.” The other two are marked Junior and Adult. These tickets with stubs sell for about $5 each.

Tickets were designed to be collectible. In fact the words “Collector Series Ticket” were printed on the large portion of the ticket which was retained by the attendee. These are three different types of tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus World Showcase. One is marked “C.” The other two are marked Junior and Adult. These tickets with stubs sell for about $5 each.

The first program was sold at the Circus World Showcase which was a preview center of what to expect in the future.

The first program was sold at the Circus World Showcase which was a preview center of what to expect in the future.

This other program was sold after the park had expanded with more shows, rides and other attractions. These can often be found for $10 or less.

This other program was sold after the park had expanded with more shows, rides and other attractions. These can often be found for $10 or less.

Here are two examples of Circus World Letterhead each worth $10-$15 per sheet. When the park first opened it was called Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus World. At that time Mattel Toy Company owned Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Circus World.

Here are two examples of Circus World Letterhead each worth $10-$15 per sheet. When the park first opened it was called Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus World.

At that time Mattel Toy Company owned Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Circus World.

At that time Mattel Toy Company owned Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Circus World.

In 1982 Irvin Feld and his son Kenneth Feld bought the traveling show back from Mattel. Mattel retained ownership of the park. At that time the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey name had to be removed from all advertising for Circus World, the theme park.

This is a nice selection of brochures from the theme park. Those on the top row have the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey name and those on the bottom row simply say Circus World. These sell from $5 to $10 each. Groupings have sold for $20 to $30 on eBay.

This is a nice selection of brochures from the theme park. Those on the top row have the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey name and those on the bottom row simply say Circus World. These sell from $5 to $10 each. Groupings have sold for $20 to $30 on eBay.

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Larry Kellogg is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.

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