The Greatest Showman, now playing in many theaters around the world is a marvelous tribute to an era gone by, since the 146 years of the thrill of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus tours ended in 2017 with the final performance in May in Uniondale, New York at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The elephant performances had ended because training them was considered inhumane to many who protested for decades. Although around 10 million people went to a Ringling circus each year, it was not enough to make the traveling show profitable.

Signage for Circus Saurus

Signage for Circus Saurus; Photo from Carson & Barnes website

Carson and Barnes Circus in Hugo, OK, is the last of the touring big tent, three-ring circuses left.  The show winters in Hugo, OK, its home for nearly four decades. Kristin Para is Circus Manager with Jan 25th this year’s special opening day and she encourages fans to watch Facebook for all the information about the show schedules for 2018. Going on the road to take the show around the country is not an easy task, which requires a large cookhouse trailer fully equipped to serve the many performers and their families. School children must be tutored for part of the tour, and families usually travel in RV’s. To see the many vehicles in route along a highway is quite fascinating. We once visited the elephant barn where the Circus vet was about to deliver a baby elephant. The elephants seemed to be well treated and content in their large farm environment, and successful breeding in captivity was a rare event for these enormous animals.


Chimp trainer, Bonnie "Jean" Warner; photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura website

Chimp trainer, Bonnie “Jean” Warner; photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura website

Performers train and practice their acts, creating new ones, all winter in this small town in which the circus people are a welcome part of the community and when the show goes on the road for half a year they are really missed. In Paris Texas families always enjoy the Grand opening days of the circus in March, often during Spring Break with many free and discounted tickets available. And one of the most popular things for groups to see is the erecting of the Big Top tent and setting up of the Circus, with animals in their traveling coaches outside the Paris, Texas, fairgrounds.

Circus Master; photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura website

Circus Master; photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura website

If you are in this area of Northeast Texas or Southeast Oklahoma, be sure to visit the Circus Cemetery in Hugo. It is worth an hour to walk through and see the fascinating circus tombstones. Many have a picture and tribute to the performer buried there. And when they are not on the road, it is interesting to drive by their headquarters just outside Hugo.

About the Author:

Bonnie Neely, a professional journalist for over 30 years, has worked extensively in educational television in which she has been project coordinator, researcher, and scriptwriter. She has also been a columnist for various newspapers and magazines as well as a producer/scriptwriter for the Discovery Channel. Furthermore Bonnie is one of the “Top Book Reviewers” for She founded Real Travel Adventures and built it into a leading travel blog.