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Circus Stories a Treat at Jackpot Junction

By Lane Talburt, WCS Special Activities Director

Any gathering of circus folk is bound to result in “cutting up jackpots.” (Translation: the tradition of performers and workers sharing experiences on circuses and carnivals.)

Worldwide Circus Summit 2015 is devoting a series, known as Jackpot Junction, to encourage individual circus personalities — both youth and veteran — to relate their stories in an intimate setting. wardAmong those signed up for the individual sessions are the following:

  • Ward Hall, Dean of sideshow owners and performers.
  • E. James Strates, president of Strates Shows, America’s last carnival on rails, who recalls the days when circuses, menageries and other “back end shows” were huge midway attractions.
  • Terry Abbott, 1950s showgirl and aerial ballerina on “The Greatest Show on Earth” and aerialist on numerous Shrine circuses.
  • William Taggart, who sold the last ducat from the legendary yellow ticket wagon when Ringling Bros. folded under canvas in 1956.
  • Kathleen Maher, executive director of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT., sharing stories of the legendary P.T. Barnum (some previously untold).
  • Cecil MacKinnon, veteran featured performer (“Yo-Yo the Narrator”) in Circus Flora and university theater professor.
  • Rob Mermin, disciple of Marcel Marceau; also a European circus trouper and founder of Circus Smirkus, a premiere youth circus.
  • Jessica Hentoff and Circus Harmony Performers, who will relate the impact of youth circus on their lives.
  • Robert W. Commerford, a Connecticut showman touring the largest traveling petting zoo from Maine to Florida, recalls his encounters with colorful circus producers and animal trainers.

As always, the appearances of these showbiz personalities are subject to last-minute changes. Additional participants will be announced.

Each scheduled half-hour jackpot session will be moderated.  Give-and-take with the audience is encouraged.