Sarasota, FL, home for many years of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the recipient of many gifts from John Ringling in his heyday, is now the home of an unparalleled miniature circus - the largest in the world.
Dubbed the Howard Brothers Circus, it is housed at the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, in Sarasota. The entire complex is administered by Florida State University.
This magnificent model of the American Circus and the building where it is installed are the gift of Howard Tibbals, who created what has been called, “a magical world more than 50 years in the making.” It is representative of the circus during its Golden Era from 1919-38.
The project's seeds were planted in Tibbals' imagination during his childhood, when he watched the circus roll into town. He has handcrafted nearly one million pieces to make up his miniature circus, including
* A four-foot-high big top,
* 8 main circus tents,
* 1500 performers,
* 200 animals,
* 152 wagons,
* 7000 folding chairs for spectators,
* Dishes and tableware to serve 900 people.
* Tiny, fully equipped train cars, and
* Thousands of other items comprising a 3,800-square-foot scale model three-ring circus.
To assure historic accuracy, Tibbals collected almost one million photographs and measured historic wagons, train cars, and other circus equipment to construct his model at a scale of 3/4 inch to a foot. The perimeter of the model is approximately 450 feet, or the length of 1.5 football fields. The area is large enough to park 11 school busses.
The Tibbals Learning Center was built with a $6.5 million donation from Tibbals, and matching grants and gifts, and completed in January 2006. Tibbals was on hand to unload the first car, a red boiler car complete with tiny pots and pans, buckets and muffin tins. “The boiler car and other cars containing equipment needed to feed the animals and workers were always the last cars loaded and the first unloaded on any circus train,” Tibbals said in an interview.
“They needed to feed everyone. The water was especially needed for the animals,” he said. “And to wet down the grounds, if they were dusty.” Tibbals and his volunteer helpers at Ringling unloaded the tiny circus train in the same order as its life-size counterpart.
At the project’s completion was the first time Howard Tibbals ever saw his life's work completely assembled as he has so long envisioned it.
The former owner of Tibbals Flooring Co. in Oneida, TN, northwest of Knoxville, Tibbals also owns a home with his wife in Sarasota.
CLICK HERE to go to the circus website.