It’s a Louisiana snow day! Of course there isn’t any snow anywhere to be seen around us, but all the schools are closed and college classes cancelled! The only problem now is, what do you do with your kids on an unexpected day off during the week? Well we have the perfect adventure for y’all! The Lake Charles Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center is currently showing a FREE exhibit (most all their exhibits are free though) called “Step Right Up: Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top.” We loved it! There was no photography allowed inside the building, but we can share a few of our favorite tidbits of history we learned.
The exhibit is on the third floor of the Historic City Hall building located on 1001 Ryan Street across from the courthouse. There are so many colorful posters, many dating back to the late 1800s! There are also several interesting artifacts such as an old elephant headdress and authentic giant clown shoes! The exhibit takes you through the different parts of a circus from the high-flying trapeze artists to the amazing animal performers and their trainers.
Here are our top five favorite circus facts:
- Large travelling American circuses often had a barbershop, doctor’s office, and schoolhouse to serve the workers and performers.
- The iconic Ringmaster top hats were hardly ever worn. Instead they were used as an extension of the Ringmaster’s arm to direct the attention of on-lookers here and there.
- The phrase “Hold your horses!” originated in the circus! Back when spectators arrived on horseback to watch the circus, the horses would sometimes be spooked by the elephants, so before they were brought out the crowd was told to “Hold your horses, here come the elephants.”
- There are three basic types of clowns: Auguste, Grotesque, and White Face.
- There was a circus worker called the Twenty-Four-Hour Man who would travel to a location a day ahead of the big top to hang posters and directional arrows leading people to the show.
Along with the amazing exhibits, there were fun activities for the kids to do! There is a booklet that asks interesting, thought-provoking questions about circus life and has areas for kids to draw their own “never-before-seen wonders.” Another activity offered is an art scavenger hunt. Eight thumbnail images are shown, and you must find the poster each was taken from and write down the title and year.
We really enjoyed this exhibit, and we know kids would, too! The exhibit will show through March 14th, so the next time you have a day or just a few hours to spare, stop by the Lake Charles Historic City Hall to experience real big top life.