The Circus Fans Come to Town

by on July 10th, 2014
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Ernest Hemingway was a lifelong circus lover and he once wrote,

“The circus is the only ageless delight that you can buy for money. Everything else is supposed to be bad for you. But the circus is good for you. It’s the only spectacle I know that, while you watch it, gives the quality of a truly happy dream.”

Working for a bi-weekly newspaper in the Hudson Valley of New York, you never know when the phone rings in the news room just who will be on the other end of the line. Some days are like a circus and other days, you are covering circus events. Thursday was one of those days when I received a call from Henry Bush, the President of local chapter 101 of the Circus Fans of America.

I have to admit, I had no idea that this association even existed but there are close to 11,000 members nationwide who pay homage to the circus industry in America. Several members of the Circus Fans of America were going to lay a wreath upon the grave of Isaac van Amburgh who is considered to be one of the first lion tamers in the theatrical circus arena and the gentleman is buried right here in the Hudson Valley.

Van Amburgh used some brutal tactics to get the wild animals to submit and he is one of the first lion tamers to stick his head inside the mouth of the lion in the circus ring. His tactics were considered to be brutal, even inhumane but still here were a group of men from the Circus Fans of America who wanted to lay a wreath on this man’s grave and I was the reporter to cover the story.

Van Amburgh’s grave is located in the historic St. George’s Cemetery in Newburgh, New York and we had no trouble locating the tall grave stone that marks his burial place. The Pastor, wearing a clown-faced vest gave a short memorial as the men laid the wreath and each spoke about their fond childhood memories of the circus and their commitment to continue to be “fans” for the rest of their lives.

The circus industry has really transformed since the daredevil acts of the 1800s when men were shot from cannonballs and caught by women hanging on a trapeze. But the Lion Tamer remains one of the greatest show toppers under the Big Top.


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