Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tampa Bay Area in Florida

Wed, Dec. 26th, 2012 - Thur, Jan, 3rd, 2013

Yeah!  I finally got my blog working again, thanks to my awesome son-in-law.  Thanks, Jeff.  There are all kinds of flamingos in Florida, but I'm not sure where they keep the live ones.  We haven't seen any yet.  This, one of many in our campground, is made out of an old tire.

Driving over the bridge to St. Petersburg, the clouds were really strange looking. This one looked very much like a cross.

We went to the Tampa Bay History Center in downtown Tampa.  Their temporary exhibit was all about coffee, one of the most widely traded products on the planet.  Coffee was discovered 6,000 years ago in Ethiopian forests.  Guests to Ethiopian homes, even today, are hosted to elaborate coffee ceremonies lasting several hours, where the beans are roasted, ground and boiled in your presence.  You may choose to add salt, butter or spices and will probably drink three cups.  Turkey dominated trade and "Mocha" was the port city from which most early coffee was shipped.  "Java" is the Indonesian island where Dutch plantations were located.   Coffee blossoms are related to gardenias with a fragrant perfume.  Coffee cherries turn deep red as they ripen, with two beans, or hard seeds, in each cherry.  It grows on a woody bush with shiny leaves and grows to 40 feet tall in the wild, but is trimmed to 6 feet for easier picking commercially.  Two species are commercially important, Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora.  Arabica was the first traded coffee and is the most flavorful and used in specialty coffees.  Canephora is hardier, cheaper to grow and has more caffeine. The flavor is harsh and bitter and is used in instant drinks and supermarket cans.  It is grown in the tropics and thrives in volcanic soils.  Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia produce the largest amounts. Over 20 million families are employed in coffee production worldwide. Most earn between $1 and $10 a day.  It is very labor intensive from pruning, mulching, weeding, hand picking, depulping, fermenting and roasting.  The best flavor characteristics come from the coffee's "terroir", the climate, soil type and topography of the region, just like wine.  Coffeehouses stimulated talk and sharing of ideas.  In the 1700s they were linked to the Boston Tea Party and the French Revolution.  In London they were called "penny universities", where for the price of a cup, you could listen to enlightening talk for hours.  In 1777 Frederick the Great said, "My people must drink beer!  The King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be depended upon."  Current research says it is far more healthful than harmful.  In moderation, it has several health benefits, including lower rates of diabetes.  

From the 1880s to 1920s hand rolled Cuban cigars were the big industry here.  These are some examples of cigar bands used by the over 300 companies that were in business here.  These, along with cigar boxes, signs, posters and other promotional materials are highly collectible.Their cigars were crafted by immigrants from Cuba, Spain and Sicily.

The Girl Scout sashes with badges, dolls and cookies are a nod to my number one daughter and something nice she said to me a couple weeks ago, related to appreciating your parents as you get older.  I'm sure some of my readers remember buying some of those Girl Scout Cookies from her at the bowling alley on Coast to Coast league nights almost thirty years ago.  The Girl Scouts was started in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia by Juliette Gordon Low with 18 girls and now has 3.7 million members in the U.S. and 92 countries.

A couple examples of dolls and clothes made by the Seminole Indians.  They were famous for this style of clothing, called Patchwork, made by sewing small bits of cloth into patterned strips, used to make colorful striped designs.

Seminole dolls were once made from rags and sticks, but are now made from cypress wood and palmetto husks.

Just a little trivia for my son-in-law.  Baseball is big here, beginning way back in the 1840s.  Over 80 major league players have come from this area.  Surprisingly, they are also very big in hockey and have several championship awards.


View of the Convention Center and History Center in the distance, next to a Celebrity cruise ship along the Hillsborough Riverwalk.

View of Riverwalk and downtown Tampa from History Center patio.

Back at our campground, there is no shortage of Christmas light viewing, as we go for our evening walk.  I sometimes wonder how many lights some of these campers must have put up, when the had regular homes and yards.

Another day we went to Centennial State Park Museum in a preserved Cuban bakery in Ybor City, known as Cigar City, now just a Cuban neighborhood in the Tampa metro area.  Florida's tobacco industry started in Key West in 1831.  Fleeing Cuba at age 14 for Key West, Mr. Ybor started a cigar business.  He later moved here and started a town and a cigar factory, because of the port and Henry Plant's new railroad.  The largest factories employed thousands and were organized on different floors according to jobs performed.  Millions of cigars were made annually, 150 to 300 per day per person, and shipped all over the  world.  In order to keep workers happy and less likely to quit or move away or go on strike, many of the factories provided homes for their workers near their factories.  The small houses were side by side with another row directly behind them facing the same street and then two rows right behind them facing the street on the next block, housing over 200 people on one block with one outhouse and a well in the center.  Eewww!  There are quite a few of these houses still left around town, updated with indoor bathrooms, that can be bought for about $7,000, as long as you agree to abide by the historical rules to not change them in any way.

In the 1890s Tampa was considered the cradle of Cuban liberty and nearly every Cuban worker pledged one day's salary per week toward Cuban independence from Spain, which came in 1898.  Cigar companies moved here from Havana, Key West, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia and it became the largest cigar producing center in the world.  Work in cigar factories was unique for the South.  Men and women, white and black, worked side by side for relatively high wages.  By 1920 the industry had reached an annual output of 410 million hand-made cigars.  "U.S. made" meant no import taxes for Cuban cigars, the world's favorite tobacco.  By the late 1920s mechanization, northern competition, cigarettes and finally, the Depression, brought a major decline to the city, but they are now revitalizing it with historical downtown preservation, parks, museums and new shopping malls in some of the old cigar factories.  It's kind of a cool area with ethnic restaurants and such.

Back at our campsite, this humongous vine growing up the tree looks just like many house plants I've seen, only many times bigger. We see lots of these overgrown houseplants climbing up trees down here.

Another day we took a guided tour of Gamble Plantation Historic State Park in Ellenton, Florida.  It is a mansion of an antebellum sugar plantation of the mid-1800s, the only one of it's kind in Southern Florida.  Major Robert Gamble, Jr. came here to homestead on the Manatee River after fighting in the Second Seminole War 1836-1842.  He built the home and eventually owned 3,500 acres and 300 slaves, before giving up due to crop failures, poor prices and other disastors.  Spanish moss hanging in the trees. The walls were two feet thick, made of tabby concrete, a mixture of sand, lime, water and sea shells.  Besides sugar cane, they also grew oranges, lemons, limes, guavas, bananas, coconuts, pineapple and coffee.  Next to the house is a 40,000 gal. cistern that caught water from the gutters on the house, and a dinner bell to call workers in from the fields for lunch.

In the kitchen on the left side is a little gadget that wound up the yarn after it was spun.  There was a little button on it that would pop up after twenty turns, which is where the song "Pop Goes the Weasel" comes from.  Next to it stand two long sticks that were their washing machine.  They were used to stir up the laundry in a barrel or wash tub. The dogs hung out in the breezeway near the kitchen.  When they wanted the dogs to go awy, they would throw a wad of bread dough out in the yard for them to chase and fight over.  That's where the term hush puppies comes from.   In 1858 the place was sold along with 189 slaves for $190,000.  During the Civil War famous Confederate blockade runner Capt. McNeill lived here.  After Richmond fell, Jefferson Davis and several of his cabinet members fled.  Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin made his way here and hid out here for five days until a couple of Confederate sailors risked their lives in an open boat to take him to the Bahamas.  He eventually made his way to England and became a famous Barrister there.  The place is a monument to him by the Daughters of the Confederacy.  It was bought at auction in 1873 by Major George Patten (no relation).  He and his family lived in the home until 1898 when it became too expensive to maintain.  He built a new home on the property, which is sometimes open for tour, also.  It has not been lived in since.  Ellenton is named after Patten's daughter, Ellen.

Another day we went to Mixon Fruit Farms in Bradenton, where we took a tour of their orchards and factory along with the Wildlife, Inc. Education and Rehabilitation center they have on the grounds.  This is one of the many non-native pythons they have captured in the Everglades from people releasing unwanted pets.  They estimate there are now tens of thousands of them and they have a month long hunting contest as part of their efforts to get rid of them.

This is an iguana.  The kids were quite fascinated, yet a little hesitant.  You sure didn't see me volunteering to hold any snakes.  

I think this is a gopher tortoise.  They get 40 to 60 years old in the wild, but can live over 100 years in captivity.


And a Macaw.  They also had an alligator snapping turtle, blonde raccoons, tan colored skunks, exotic pigs, owls and a couple other birds.  It was a very good tour.  Citrus orchards and such were also very interesting.  They had limes, lemons, grapefruit. oranges, tangerines, tangelos, pomelo, star fruit, kumquat and something called Buddha's hand, because it looks like a hand with a lot of fingers.

Afterwards we walked through the flower gardens, maze and koi pond, and of course had some orange swirl ice cream and bought a few gifts for the grandkids in the gift shop.

The bougainvillea is just gorgeous.

Later we stopped for a walk on Siesta Key Beach, one of the nicest beaches in Florida.  The white sand is so fine, it's just like walking in flour.  Cool works of art in the sand.  Check out those nice beach chairs with the half tents for shade.

Notice the sunglasses hanging out of the shark's mouth and his teeth.

This is what a snow man or woman looks like in Florida, complete with sea shell bra.

There were several boats pulling parasailors.  One parasail had three people riding on it.

I think John's trying to send a picture with that fancy new phone of his, that I think he loves more than me.  Oh well, I had a good run. It's hard to compete with technology.

The Henry Plant Museum in the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel he built in downtown Tampa, the largest of the eight resort hotels he built on the west coast of Florida, to go with his transportation industry of railroads and steamships. This opulent resort hotel on 150 acres had 511 rooms, an 800 seat dining room, 2,000 seat casino/performing arts center, conservatories, tennis courts, golf course, horseshoes, morning concerts, billiards, cards, reading room, barber shop, boating, bicycling, hunting and fishing guides, kennels and dog rentals and lavish gardens and walkways.  Some notables who performed here were ballerina Anna Pavlova, composer John Phillip Sousa, showman Buffalo Bill Cody and spokesman Booker T. Washington, even though he could not have stayed there at the time.  It's so huge I couldn't begin to get it all in one picture.  It had at least 11 minarets.  Plant had  connections in Washington and convinced them to use his hotel as headquarters for the Spanish American War in Cuba in 1898.  Secretary of Navy Teddy Roosevelt stayed here with his wife, while his Rough Riders camped in tents along the river.  All of the officers enjoyed the luxuries of the hotel while they planned their strategies, and their troops suffered the heat, mosquitoes and bad food and water in their tents nearby.

The back veranda.  Henry bought up small railroad companies in the South, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and connected them  to New York and the entire Northeast.  For incentive the state paid him 13,840 acres for every mile of track he laid, a total of over 750,000 acres.  In his time he was "The King of Florida".

The Grand Piazza where the officers and war correspondents sipped their iced tea and planned their strategies.  Henry's railroads transported the troops to Florida and his steamships transported them to Cuba.  Cuba had been under Spanish rule for 382 years. The war lasted four months.  Cuba was independent in 1902 and we gained the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam.

A picture of one of the minarets through a second floor window.  Kind of a cool picture, I thought.  Only one of his hotels remains in operation as a hotel, Belleview in Belleair, the oldest wooden hotel in Florida.

Dining room.  The casino had a swimming pool with a floor that rolled back and covered it in the evening for dancing and theater.  The casino burned down.

The rooms off one end of the hotel are the museum.  They are filled with treasures that were collected by Henry and his wife on excursions to Europe while the hotel was being built.  They brought 41 train cars of furnishings, paintings, sculptures, etc. to decorate "Plant's Palace".

The hotel is designed so all the doorways and archways are shaped like a keyhole.  You can see a couple of the doorways here and one reflected in the mirror.  The hotel operated from 1891 to 1931.  It was sold to the city in 1933 for $25,000 and leased to the University.  Most of the building now has classrooms and offices in them.  

Plant Field in the 1890s originally had a half-mile horse racing track, but was it converted over to auto racing in the 1920s and a race was held every year until 1973 as part of the Florida State Fair in February.  Also, several major league baseball teams held their spring training here. While Babe Ruth was playing with the Boston Red Socks on April 4, 1919, he hit his longest home run ever, 587 feet.  It landed right where the sign is in the middle of this picture.  On New Years Day 1926 the Chicago Bears, starring Red Grange, defeated a team featuring Jim Thorpe here.

Rowing programs from northern colleges also come here for winter training.  Rowers are considered by many as the world's most physically fit athletes.  On the riverfront wall to the right side of the picture, you can see some of the rower's graffiti artwork.  Look closely at the smaller building in the center and you will see a salamander engraved on it.

As we were getting ready to leave, a whole parade of antique cars pulled up to the grand hotel.  Just a club out for their Sunday evening cruise.  So cool.  Like our own private parade.

A swell way to end our day.

The next day we went to 400-acre Sawgrass Lake Park and the John A. Anderson Environmental Center for a walk on the boardwalk to see if we could spot any wildlife.  We saw this baby alligator about two feet long. We also saw a big fat one back in the trees a ways.

I think this is a small blue heron.

Just a nice view of that eerie looking swamp land with the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.

Then we saw a nine-banded armadillo, the first armadillo we've seen in the wild.  They weigh 6 to 14 pounds (up to 22 pounds).  They are one of the largest species of armadillo with a total length from head to tail of 25 to 42 inches and are 6 to 10 inches tall at the top of the shell. Their sensitive noses can detect prey through 8 inches of soil.  Armor covers their back, sides, head and tail and the outside of their legs.  Unlike the South American three-banded armadillo, it cannot roll itself into a ball.  It is capable of floating across rivers by inflating it's intestines or by sinking and running across riverbeds, due to it's ability to hold it's breath up to six minutes, an adaptation allowing it to keep it's snout submerged while foraging in soil.  It's leading predator is humans, as it is locally harvested for it's meat and shell and thousands are victims of auto accidents.  July to August is mating season.  A single egg is fertilized, but implantation is delayed 3 to 4 months to insure it is not born in an unfavorable time of year.  Gestation is four months during which the zygote splits into four identical embryos. The quadruplets remain in the burrow on mother's milk for three months.  Then they forage with the mother, leaving after six months to a year. They reach sexual maturity at one year and reproduce every year for the rest of their 12 to 15 year lifespan, having up to 56 young in a lifetime.  It tastes like pork, steals poultry and game bird eggs and is valuable in medical research, as they are susceptible to leprosy.  They are raised in Texas for armadillo races where they scurry down a 40 foot track.  In the Depression they were known as "poor man's pork" or "Hooverhog" by those who considered Hoover responsible for the Depression.  They migrated here from South America and have been spotted as far north as Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana.

AirStreamhenge next to a big RV sales lot near our campground.

Near the Mall three boats of rowers and several sail boats that are lit up at night and the lights move to show the rowers rowing and the sails moving.  Kind of cool.  Not sure if this was just for Christmas or if they are there all the time.  They have an annual seaborne parade in February at Gasparilla that draws 400,000 spectators.  Over half the cargo through Florida is handled at Port of Tampa.  The port is over 5,000 acres with 3 cruise ship terminals, 7 phosphate terminals, 14 dry bulk, 11 cargo and 3 full-service shipyards.  Phosphate is 90% of their outbound tonnage, making them the largest port by tonnage in the state, moving 50 million tons annually.  The state's two largest natural resource industries are citrus and cattle.  There are one million beef cattle on Florida ranches covering four million acres pastureland and one million acres grazed woods and scrub land.  They roamed free all over the state until 1947 when a fencing law was passed.  All citrus pulp and waste goes into cattle feed, as does molasses, a sugar cane by-product.  Florida leads the nation in oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and tangelos.  Plant City near our campground is the "World's Winter Strawberry Capitol".  They grow 18.5 million flats (over 220 million pounds) strawberries every year.  The Driscoll Berry warehouse is right next door to our campground.  They are also the national leader in production of sugar cane, bell peppers, fresh market sweet corn, snap beans, squash, radishes and eggplant.  They are the only state with commercial lime and mango crops.  With 90 million pounds of seafood caught every year, the total economic impact of the seafood industry to the state is over $1 billion and creates over 30,000 jobs. 

Ca' d'Zan (Casa de Zan), Venetian dialect for House of John, the home of John and Mabel Ringling on Sarasota Bay, designed to emulate the grandeur of the Doge's Palace in Venice.  Completed in 1926 for $1.5 million (original estimate $225,000) on 66 beautiful, bayfront acres, it includes tree trails, pathways, secret garden where they are buried, Mabel's 28,000 square foot rose garden (1913 Italian wagon-wheel design with 1,200 rose plants, 2006 most outstanding public rose garden in the nation), Museum of Art, Circus Museum and Learning Center with circus miniatures and interactive galleries.  Notice what looks like a grove of trees to the left side of the walk.  It is actually all one tree, a banyan tree.  There are fifteen on the estate.  I will talk more about them in my next blog. 

John (born MacGregor, Iowa 1866) was the youngest of the five Ringling brothers who founded the circus.  There were two more brothers who worked for the circus and one sister, who did not.  She and her husband, a railroad engineer, had a home across the bay and she is buried here with John and Mabel.  John started as a clown and later took over as advance man, routing and scouting circus acts in Europe in the 1890s, where he became an international celebrity.  He was an astute business man with expensive tastes.  By the 1920s he was one of the wealthiest men in the country with investments in Oklahoma oil, Florida real estate, finance, railroads, Montana ranching and an interest in Madison Square Gardens in New York.  He had multiple residences, a private rail car and an extensive art collection of over 600 paintings.  

The home has 56 rooms and 36,000 sq. ft.  The 3rd, 4th and 5th stories are just guest quarters.  Some guests were the New York governor and mayor, Flo Ziegfeld and Will Rogers.   Al, the oldest brother, was the instigator and founder.  He taught himself to juggle, ride bareback and walk a rope and took off with the carnival.  

There is a 12,000 sq. ft. marble terrace.   Mabel died two and a half years after the home was completed.  What a bummer.  John died ten years after it was complete.  Tickets were $25, but you could get them stamped to come back for a second day.   I also heard someone say that the art museum was free on Mondays.  Anyway, well worth the price.  We were here for almost ten hours.

The 125 ft. yacht, Zalophus, was moored here.  When entertaining, John's favorite Czechoslavakian band would be playing on the yacht with the music drifting up to the guests on the terrace or inside in the ballroom.  What a life!

This is the ballroom which was open to two other large rooms when entertaining large groups.  Check out the gilded ceiling with 22 hand-painted depictions of dancing couples from various nations, called "Dancers of Nations".   

Close-up of ceiling. 

This is what they called "the court", to us family room or living room. The chandelier is from the old Waldorf Astoria that was demolished to make room for the Empire State Building.  The Solarium was originally a screened porch with access to the terrace and in-ground marble pool.  It is now enclosed and the pool is being restored. 

Dining room.  There is a Tap Room off  to the side where the men retired to after dinner for their drinks, cigars and conversation, while the women had to go to the parlor and do lady-like things. 

John's bedroom with bedroom suite designed after one he saw that belonged to Napoleon.  It has a bathroom, walk-in closet, connecting office with private marble staircase and adjoins Mabel's bedroom which also has a bathroom and walk-in closet. 

View down into the court, or gathering and entertainment area, which opens out to the terrace and the breakfast room, which leads to the butler's pantry and kitchen, above which are the servants quarters.   In the breakfast room there were matching leather, upholstered cushions on the floor in front of each chair, so the women wouldn't have to touch the cold tile floor with their feet. 

In the Tibbals Learning Center are the Circus Miniature and Interactive Galleries.  Howard Tibbals spent 50 years of his life creating the world's largest miniature circus.  It is modeled after the Ringling Brother's Circus, but they would not let him use their name, so it is called the Howard Bros. Circus Model.   It is a 3,800 sq. ft. exhibition space and replicates the 20 acre circus when it was at it's largest from 1919 to 1938.  It features eight circus tents and 42,000 objects.   At it's largest they held 15,000 with folding chairs the length of the tent and bleachers along the curved ends.  If they were sold out, straw was spread on the ground for children.  A packed Big Top was known as a "strawhouse".   There were also tents for the performing horses, working horses, camels, giraffes, zebras, elephants, blacksmiths, leather workers, dressing rooms, etc.  The action was in three rings, on four stages, around the hippodrome and in the air and the show lasted two and a half hours with no intermission and over 800 artists performing in 22 displays.  At the time there were no zoos and the circus was the first place Americans saw animals from another continent.

It shows the parade that leads people to the Midway with sideshows, souvenirs and food, and through the menagerie of circus wagons full of exotic animals, including lions, tigers, polar bears, orangutans, and kangaroos.  There are also all the behind the scenes tents, like the dining hall where they fed 1,300 people three meals a day.  It was the first one to arrive in town, so meals would be ready when the rest of the crew arrived.  All the supplies they would need were ordered ahead by the advance man.  A typical day's order was 2 barrels sugar, 30 gal. milk, 36 bags table salt, 30 bu. potatoes, 110 doz. oranges, 200 lbs. tea & coffee, 226 doz. eggs, 285 lbs. butter, 350 lbs. salad, 1,300 lbs. fresh veggies, 2,220 loaves bread, 2,470 lbs. fresh meat, and 3,600 ears corn.

It took Mr. Tibbals over a year to assemble the exhibit.  It also includes the railroad cars, tracks, depot, etc.  He actually packed everything into the wagons and onto the train cars just like they really did it and unloaded the same way, starting with the dining tent.  He is an engineer and the loading and setting up was what fascinated him the most.  The U.S. Army and armies all over Europe studied the detailed logistics of the circus methods of traveling all over with so much gear.  Between 1919 and 1938 they traveled in over 100 train cars with 1,300 workers and performers and 800 animals, moving every day covering 15,000 miles and 150 towns per year.  He built the bulk of it in the basement of his Tennessee home.  He continues to work 20 hours a week adding more thoroughly researched details.  He was born in 1936. 

They also have the Dunn Bros Parade miniatures on display, which is thousands of animals, performers, wagons etc.  Dunn displayed his first model circus in a department store in Enid, Oklahoma and turned it into a career.  He estimated over 5 million people viewed his traveling miniature circus at over 200 department stores across the country.  The first American circus parade was in Philadepphia in 1797 and the first true circus performance was there in 1793 with George Washington and his family in attendance.  In the 1940s most parades were discontinued, as radio and TV advertising became more effective.  In 1963 the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin restarted an annual "Great Circus Parade".   Baraboo was the original headquarters of Ringling Bros. where they grew up.  Their winter headquarters was eventually moved to Sarasota in 1927 for 60 years and finally to Venice, Florida.  Now they practice at the Tampa Fairgrounds.  They bought Barnum and Bailey after Bailey's death in 1906 and became RBBB.  John Ringling, the last of the five brothers, died in 1936 with no direct heirs and the circus in a financial mess.  His home and art museum were left to the state.  His nephews (Ida's sons) John Ringling North and Henry took over and got the circus back on it's feet.  John was brilliant circus owner and an international playboy and played himself in Cecil B. DeMille's 1952 movie "The Greatest Show on Earth", which premiered in Sarasota, starring Charleton Heston, Dorothy Lamour and Jimmy Stewart.  It was filmed live all over the country and John hired the performers and oversaw all aspects of the movie.  He even co-composed one of the songs, "Lovely Luawana Lady".  It cost $3 million to make with $500,000 in advertising and grossed over $12 million the first year.  The last performance of the Big Top was in Pittsburgh in 1956, ending a 131 year tradition.  After that they moved their performances into arenas.  Irvin Feld, a clown, started the Clown College in Venice in 1968 and eventually bought the Ringling Bros. Circus where he signed the contract at the Coliseum in Rome.  He sold it to Mattel Toy Company in 1970 for over $47 million.  In 1982 he bought it back.  He died two years later and his son took over.  The name changed to Feld Entertainment , Inc. in 1996.   Feld also developed "Circus Fit", a youth fitness program and CEC, Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida, a state-of-the-art breeding and retirement facility for the conservation, breeding and study of the Asian elephant.  Circus training for all ages is more popular than ever and growing throughout the world.

Calliopes were first built in the 1850s.  This Two Jester Calliope is one of only a dozen original steam calliope instruments left in existence today.  The 36-whistle instrument is the largest ever placed in a circus wagon, an American invention, built in Denver in 1920.  Stilts have been used for hundreds of years in agriculture and construction.  The parades were led by a bandwagon.  The one in the museum was built in 1878, weighs over 8 tons and was pulled by 40 black horses in Barnum and Bailey.  They also have one of those human cannon machines on display and the original private family train car of John and Mabel, named Wisconsin.  

Elephant blankets with 25 yards of material, trim and supporting canvas backing, with thousands of rhinestones and sequins weigh up to 200 pounds. The tradition of training elephants goes back 4,000 years to the Hindu Valley.  Clyde Beatty was known for showing 40 lions and tigers in a single cage.  Ursula Bottcher had an act training ten polar bears.  The Cristiani family was known their simultaneous running leap onto the back of a galloping horse.  In 1859 the Great Blondin walked an 1,100 foot wire across Niagara Falls.  In 1970 someone walked a 1,000 foot wire across Tallulah Gorge in North Georgia, doing two headstands along the way.  In 1974 someone walked a wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center.  In 2011 Nick Wallenda finished the high wire act that killed his great-grandfather.  John Ringling brought the Wallenda family to America in 1928.   

Mary Wirth's costume.  She started training at 7 and by 10 was a talented trick rider.  At 18 she was touring with Barnum and Bailey as "The World's Greatest Bareback Rider", somersaulting backwords through rings on horseback, starting a 25 year career.  Jules Leotard is credited with inventing the Flying Trapese, but is best known for the item of clothing that is named for him.  There was also an exhibit about Cirque du Soleil which was founded in 1984 in Quebec by a small group of entertainers who dreamed of traveling the world entertaining audiences. It has now been applauded by tens of millions of spectators on four continents.  The greates circus tragedy took place in 1944.  With 7,000 watching the Great Wallendas on the highwire, a fire started, consuming the Big Top in minutes with 168 killed and over 500 injured.  The circus was fined $10,000 and six employees served jail terms.  Later in the 1950s a convicted arsonist confessed to setting the blaze.

Also on the grounds is an awesome art museum with Ringling's lifetime collection and more.  It is in a U-shape around this great courtyard garden with lots of great sculptures. 

All along the roof line is full-size sculptures of people. 

When we were at the Siesta Key Beach, a couple from Bosnia asked me to take a picture of their family in front of this sand sculpture they had made. 

Happy New Year to all.  I hope to have another blog (about Fort Myers) in a few days.  We are now in Lakeworth, Florida, Palm Beach area on Atlantic side.

Happy sailing!

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