Howard Tibbals Miniature Circus ? Ringling Museum of Art

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Howard Tibbals Miniature Circus – Ringling Museum of Art – Norman A. Rubin

Off the beaten track sites were quite plentiful when I traveled with my wife Tala through the United States, especially when we drove through the State of Florida. Off course we visited the regular sites that were of interest to us on our tour through the States and enjoyed them very much. Then, lo and behold, when we drove through Sarasota we came across an interesting attraction off the beaten site – the miniature Ringling Bros. and Bailey Circus created by the master model builder and philanthropist Howard Tibbals at the John and Mable Museum at Art. There we found the circus miniature model complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more that 800 animals and 59 wagon circus train that occupies 3,800 feet Tibbals Learning Center at the museum..

“Wow, the circus is coming to town” as we viewed the posters of the coming event, when I recollected the memories of my youth. I do remember the circus posters that were plastered on buildings, bulletin boards, and on fences throughout the town, which as a youngster I would join my friends in the excitement of the arrival of the circus. At the learning center there are interactive circus posters, a digital exhibition of more than 5,000 posters and a changing gallery of original circus posters. ‘Yahoo, I loved the circus and still do!” Also my wife expressed her delight as we viewed this model exhibition.

‘Here comes the circus,’ are the words to the many of the circus fans. Circus is a magic word that inspired us to enter a fantasy of exciting, varied colorful images – tight rope walkers walking the high ropes, elephants thundering around the rings, horses prancing to the call of their trainer, clowns in all forms of costume and makeup cavorting in their acts causing ripples of laughter of the seated audience. The call of the ringmaster, the brilliant lights, the three ring performances that calls in to a child in each one of us that delights our memories

The Ringling Museum of the American Circus, established in 1948, was the first museum to document and highlights the history of the circus. The mission of the Circus Museum was to make circus artifacts accessible to a diverse audience that actively engages the visitor and helps the visitor to understand the performances of the artists and performers who made a unique impact on the ever-changing face of the American Circus.

For us the tour of the Ringling Museum of Art was quite enjoyable and interesting. Both and my wife and I agreed that the museum was the most remarkable exhibition seen anywhere, combining art in all forms to together with a look at the circus world in miniature. Later we had a bit of a rest and comfort at the Treviso Restaurant at the museum where we partook of some of the culinary delights that suited our palate.

**Handicapped accessibility – wheel chairs are available at the Visitors Pavilion. There is a tram from building to building to pick up and drop off a wheel chair at each destination. Ramps are in the courtyard to provide access to the statuary.

For further visitor information contact:

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

5401 Bay Shore Rd.

Sarasota, Florida 34243 – Phone: 941.359,5700

e-mail –



1) The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, established in 1927 is located on a sixty-six acre estate on Sarasota Bay through the legacy of John Ringling (1866-1936) and his wife Mable (1875-1929). Within the museum complex there are twenty one galleries of European art, Asian art, as well as American paintings and contemporary art. The museum features the Tibbals Learning Center, as well as the Circus Museum with largest miniature circus. ‘’

2) It was the same John Ringling who made Sarasota synonymous with circus throughout America and the rest of the world when he move the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Bailey from Bridgeport, Conn. to Sarasota in 1927. Since then through the years thousands of visitors came to the circus site.

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