The Port Arthur Historical Society, in collaboration with Tegge Circus Archives, is presenting Step Right Up! an exhibit featuring a conglomeration of approximately 60 pieces of circus history, at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur.
The exhibit includes full-color posters, costumes, historic photographs, and even a headdress worn by a performing circus elephant. Now on display, the exhibit will remain available for public viewing until May 26.
Step Right Up! chronicles 75 years of circus history and highlights how the insatiable fantasy of circus life is both an alternate reality and a vision founded in truth, a Port Arthur Historical Society press release states.
“For many performers, the big top’s nomadic life offered a different kind of escape and, in many instances, a life that challenged the economic and gender conventions of the age,” the release states. “The juxtaposition of romanticized imagery and backstage stories and photographs reveal both the fantasy and reality of circus life, exploring the illusions that played to the imaginations of so many who considered ‘running away to join the circus.’”
“It is the circus from 1890 to 1965,” said Sarah Bellian, curator at The Museum of the Gulf Coast. “It has a bunch of different circus memorabilia in it. It shows some behind the scenes. People can watch footage from old circuses. It just kind of gives an introduction to this institution, which is really an American phenomenon and was really big in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. A lot of our older visitors remember the circus coming to town. … The grandparents really enjoy telling the kids what it was like.”
Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children. Museum hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.
A free family fun day scheduled for April 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when families will have an opportunity to meet circus performers and clowns. Face painting will also be available.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast is at 700 Procter St in Port Arthur. For more information, call (409) 982-7000.