Our board members are highly valued within for their contributions to the world of circus and their continued support of the society.
President Don Covington has been a lifelong circus enthusiast, as evidenced by the fact that he joined CHS and CFA while still in high school. Assignments as a carrier aviator in the US Navy provided him the opportunity to visit and study circuses worldwide. After retiring as a Navy captain, he began a second career as a circus executive, touring with Big Apple Circus for thirteen years, where he served in various capacities including Executive Assistant to Paul Binder and Company Manager. During the period that he was Administrative Director of San Diego’s Fern Street Circus, he became active in the American Youth Circus Organization. He was the national president of Circus Fans Association of America in 2012 and 2013 and is a trustee of Windjammers Unlimited. His articles and photographs have been featured in Le Monde du Cirque (France), Planet Circus (Germany), King Pole (U.K.), Bandwagon, White Tops, Circus Fanfare, Circus Report and Amusement Business. His chronicle Life on the Road was included as a chapter in the book Big Apple Circus 25 Years. Don and his family live in Coronado, California which serves as his base as a circus consultant.
Vice-President Alan Campbell is a graduate of Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, and was an Air Force pilot during the Viet Nam war, attaining the rank of Lt. Colonel. From 1969 until his retirement in 2000 he flew for Delta Airlines. Alan lives in the Atlanta suburb of Johns Creek, GA. He joined CHS in 1998 and served as Secretary-Treasurer from 2003 to 2008.
TREASURER & NEWS EDITOR
Sec. / Treasurer and Newsletter Editor Robert Cline, started his circus career out as a Junior Circus Model Builder, then joined Circus Kirk in 1973. Bob remained there through 1975 while attending Ohio State University in the off season. He started the free interest course on clowning at OSU in 1975. He then handed it off to some of the Shriner Clowns and they made a huge success out of it for many years. He performed between 1973 and 1995 doing aerial cradle, comedy low wire and lion & tiger acts, eventually owning his own tiger act for a few years. He has authored the e-Book “America’s Elephants” as well as written several articles for the Bandwagon. He studies the history of non-zoological elephants all the time. He has finished a historical documentation of the Circus World Museum parade trains over the years including their loading lists, train orders, paint schemes, and histories. Bob created and maintains the CHS Circus Wagons website, and is Social Media Administrator for CHS’s Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages. He also serves in the same capacity for the International Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, IN. where he is a member of the Advisory Board and a Volunteer.
Our trustees are highly valued within for their contributions to the world of circus and their continued support of the society.
Trustee Chris Berry’s two passions are broadcasting and the circus — though not necessarily in that order. Growing up just outside of Sarasota, at an early age Chris had the opportunity to meet some of the great circus stars of the 20th century and the fire was lit. By the time he was 14 Chris was a member of the Circus Historical Society and a regular volunteer at the old Circus Hall of Fame. His interest in circus history and expertise in the area of circus lithographs blossomed as he learned and was mentored by some of the most respected circus historians of the time. After a career with CBS and ABC where he held executive positions in Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York and Chicago – Chris now is a Senior Vice President at iHeartMedia where he divides his time between gathering and distributing the news of today, and the studying the history of the circus in America.
Trustee Maureen Brunsdale is a graduate of St. Olaf College, the University of Iowa, and the University of South Dakota. Maureen has been a Special Collections and Rare Books Librarian at Illinois State University since 2009. It is there where her world first collided most delightfully with the circus. She oversees four unique collections in her job at the Milner Library, none more fascinating (or alluring) as the Circus & Allied Arts Collection!
Richard Flint, a CHS past president (1982-85), earned his M.A. in history and museum administration from the Cooperstown Graduate Programs. In 1973-74 he was recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowship for a year-long study on the history and traditions of the circus and its people enabling him to gather oral histories from many then-veteran show folk. He has worked at a variety of museums including the library of the Circus World Museum and the Smithsonian’s Division of Performing Arts where he annually directed for four years a large-scale indoor/outdoor festival on popular entertainment and as well as related academic conferences at the Museum of American History. He was the curator and catalog author for the Strong Museum’s 1977 exhibit “Step Right Up: Turn of the Century Amusement for All” and conceived and curated “Mermaids, Mummies & Mastodons” at the historic Peale Museum in Baltimore, comparing and contrasting the museums of the Peale family and P.T. Barnum. Underwritten by one of the largest competitive NEH grants ever awarded for a museum exhibit, it received the 1991 award as the year’s outstanding history exhibit from the American Association of Museums. In addition, he has served as advisor to television documentaries including “Sideshow: Alive on the Inside” for the Discovery Network and “Barnum’s Big Top” for the PBS American Experience series. He is the author of numerous articles on topics related to 19th and early 20th-century popular entertainments as well as graphic and decorative arts appearing in various academic books, journals, and exhibition catalogs (a selection is freely available at academia.edu). Before his recent retirement, he worked several years for the Ringling-Barnum circus reviewing more than 10,000 boxes of business records as to their value for historical retention. Over the course of several years, he also spent a total of seven months as a program vendor living on the iconic Ringling circus train as it traveled on both coasts. His varied contributions to the history field, cultural institutions, and bibliographical matters resulted with his election by colleagues in 2008 to membership in the American Antiquarian Society, one of only 2000 historians so chosen since its founding in 1812 as this country’s first national historical organization.
Trustee Steve Flint is retired from the auto industry where he served as a consultant for General Motors. He’s been a member of the CHS since 1979 and enjoys both collecting and researching circus history and building models. He also belongs to the CFA and the CMB where he served two terms as Supt. of Construction. He also belongs to CWM, Inc. and was quite active in volunteering at CWM Baraboo (mainly in the wagon restoration shop) for over 25 years.
Trustee Jim Foster’s professional career as a newspaper journalist always included circus stories and interviews with such luminaries as Henry Ringling North, Rudy Bundy, and Dr. J. Y. Henderson. Later, in retirement, the circus became a labor of love as he edited The White Tops for the CFA. Through the years, however, he was most drawn to the logistics . . . laying out the lot, spotting the wagons, providing food for personnel and animals, and then getting it all loaded in proper order on the flats to hurry on to the next town. He clearly remembers as a youth standing at a rail siding in the dark of night as the last generator wagon was pulled up the runs. His dedication to circus history is a natural follow-on.
Trustee Steve Gossard began to do circus research in 1984 because he was asked by the Museums Department at Illinois State University to curate an exhibit from the circus collection at Milner Library. He soon became aware that few people in the community knew anything about our local circus history. The few retired professionals who still lived in town seemed disappointed by the fact that the community had forgotten them. In fact, the local circus history was something of a mystery to everyone. His goal from the beginning was to make document this fascinating history in detail. As time went on, he became more and more interested in the history of trapeze in general, and in 1991 he published A Reckless Era of Aerial Performance, the Evolution of Trapeze. That same year he was invited to take the position of Curator of Circus Collections at Milner Library, a job that he has had since then. Steve has a Bachelors Degree in Art and a Masters Degree in Art History.
Bruce E. Hawley, who is a distant cousin of Phineas Taylor Barnum, was born in Bridgeport Connecticut with “sawdust in his veins.” His great grandfather Edwin Noble worked as a wheelwright in the Barnum & Bailey Circus Winter Quarters in Bridgeport from 1896 until the early 1900s. His great uncle William “Bill” Lewis and several other relatives worked as performers and staffers on the “Barnum Show” and in other circuses up until the 1970s. In keeping with his circus heritage, Bruce learned some basic trapeze and wire walking skills as a boy and built a miniature circus that was later displayed in the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport for about 10 years. He became president of the Friends of the Barnum Museum in the 1980s. He has been a member of the CHS since 1986 and was a member of the CHS Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2014. He Co-Chaired the Worldwide Circus Summit in 2015 and will co-chair Circus Summit 2019. A lawyer by profession, Bruce retired from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps as a brigadier general in 2005 after 34 years of active duty and reserve service. He recently retired from Stewart Title Guaranty Company where he was an executive vice president and director of Stewart Title’s national Commercial Services division. Bruce resides in Stratford Connecticut with his wife Debbie. They have 3 children and 7 grandchildren.
Trustee Wayne McCary has been a lifelong circus enthusiast. He is a graduate of the University of Hartford and has spent his entire professional career in the fair, circus and arena industries. He recently retired as the President of the Eastern States Exposition, the nation’s fifth largest fair. In 1970 he founded and produced through 2012 the Exposition Super Circus that remains one of its premier attractions. He was also the longtime producer of the Maine Shrine Circus tour and is the namesake of CFA Tent 172. Today he is an active circus producer and consultant in the fair industry and serves as Vice President of the Federation Mondiale du Cirque in Monaco and chairs the OABA circus committee.
Trustee Julie Parkinson With over 25 years of experience in the circus and entertainment industry, Julie Parkinson is the first third-generation member of the Circus Historical Society. Julie’s performing career spanned 15 years, beginning at Circus World Museum and later performing for 4 years on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Blue Unit, among other shows. In 2003 Julie joined the Big Apple Circus where she served as Company Manager for 3 years. Next Julie joined the staff at Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE while the show was in creation. She stayed with LOVE for 5 years, later moving to VIVA Elvis and finally Zarkana, completing over 7 years with CDS in lead positions. Recently Julie managed the social media for The Ringling for over a year. She currently resides in Sarasota, while working as a freelance designer and artist for Cirque du Soleil and other large-scale production companies. Julie is the daughter of Greg Parkinson, who was the Executive Director of Circus World Museum for 17 years and the granddaughter of Bob Parkinson, founder of the Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center at Circus World Museum. Julie enjoys collecting circus posters and learning about circus history. She is thrilled to have been recently elected to the CHS board of directors and hopes that her experience, ideas and network will help generate new memberships for the organization.
Fred D. Pfening III
Trustee Fred D. Pfening III is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan and holds a master’s degree in economic history from Ohio State University. He has been a CHS member almost his entire life, having joined in 1961 when only twelve years old. He is a past President (1986-89), has bee a Trustee since CHS was reorganized in 1997, and has served as Managing Editor of Bandwagon. He is CEO of the Fred D. Pfening Company, manufacturers of bakery and allied machinery, Columbus, Ohio.
John F. Polacsek
Trustee John F. Polacsek became interested in tracing the routes of early circuses after discovering an 1835 metal printing plate that a branch of the Zoological Institute used to advertise their menagerie while traveling through Ohio. John extended his research and in 1974 produced The History of the Circus and Menagerie in Ohio Before 1860, as his Masters Thesis at Bowling Green State University. By researching early circuses, he has used newspapers, diaries and route cards, and route books to verify a number of circus routes. He has also provided numerous photographs for the route books and advertising that has been issued by the Carson & Barnes Circus. In addition to being a Director of the CHS, he served as the President of the organization.
Trustee Peter Shrake is the Archivist at the Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center at Circus World, a position he has held since 2011. A life-long resident of Wisconsin, Shrake holds a Masters of Arts in history from U.W. Eau Claire and a Masters of Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin. Shrake served as the Executive Director of the Sauk County Historical Society for eight years and three years worked for the Library/Archives Division of the Wisconsin Historical Society as a reference archivist.
Trustee Al Stencell is a CHS Past President. Al is a Canadian and has been a trustee since the 1997 reorganization. A retired showman, he worked his way up through concessions, novelties, and bill posting until becoming a showman. From 1973 to 1976 he was part owner of Royal Bros. He and his wife founded and operated Martin and Downs Circus from 1977 to 1983. In 1983 he built Super Circus International and toured it until 1992. A gifted raconteur, his knack for storytelling led to writing two popular books, with a third soon to be published.
Trustee Deborah Walk retired from The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, as the Deputy Director of Legacy and Circus. She led the team that oversaw the building and installation of exhibits in the Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center (Phase I & II). Her publications include the catalog The Amazing American Circus Poster: The Strobridge Lithographing Company (2011, co-curator, co-editor and contributor), Circus: The Photographs of Frederick W. Glasier (2009, co-editor) – winner of the American Association of Museum’s Frances Smyth-Ravenel Prize for Excellence in Publication Design for 2010, The Circus in Miniature: The Howard Bros. Model Circus (2008 and 2016, editor and contributor), Ca ‘d’Zan: The Restoration of the Ringling Mansion (editor), A Guide to the Archives of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, The Letterbook of Frederick Wolcott Lyman, and two pocketbooks published by the Eakins Press Foundation as well as other articles on archives, conservation, and the circus. She is the Secretary for the Board of Directors of the Circus Arts Conservatory, on the Advisory Board for the Historical Society of Sarasota County and is the Historian/Archivist for the Founders Garden Club of Sarasota, Garden Club of America. She is a past president of the Circus Historical Society, Sarasota County Historical Commission, and the Society of Florida Archivists and a past member of the Florida State Historical Records Advisory Board.
Our emeritus members are highly valued within for their contributions to the world of circus and their continued support of the society.
Judith L. Griffin
Trustee, past president, Judith L. Griffin was only the second woman to serve as President of CHS, Bette Leonard was the first, 1947-1957. Judy joined CHS in 2000, after spending twenty years trying to track her family relative, James L. Hutchinson’s connection with the circus. It is a familiar tale; her mother said that one of the family was connected to the circus. After some failed efforts to find much information on “Hutch” (part-owner, Barnum & London, 1881-1887), she developed a web page with a small amount of information. It was not too long afterward that, as a result of the website, she heard from another relative, a Stuart Hicks from Australia, who was also looking for information on Hutch, and who had a surprising amount of additional information. When she learned about the Circus Historical Society and joined in 2000, she received research advice that resulted in a wealth of information. The result of the connection with the relative in Australia has resulted in collaboration on a biography of James L. Hutchinson, a work in progress. Another interest is the early aquatic acts performed on circuses before 1900 (water queen and man-fish). In 2001 the CHS asked her to develop a website for CHS, which went on the web in May 2002. The site continues to be a ‘labor of love,’ growing from about four visits a day to over 1,000. Judy is a retired teacher/consultant for children with Autism and a past President of the Autism Society of Wisconsin. She has a BA from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI and an MSE from the University of Wisconsin.
Trustee Emeritus Dave Price was born in Nashville the same year that both Barnes-Sells-Floto with RBBB Features and Robbins Bros with Clyde Beatty played the town. His earliest circus memories are from 1943 when he saw two circuses; at one he saw Beatty and at the other Gargantua. He has collected circus posters since 1952. Price worked as a billposter on the advance of eight different circuses, both large and small, and his wife Mary Jane was a press agent when they were with the Hanneford show. He eventually earned a B. S. from Middle Tennessee State College and an M. A. Ed. from Tennessee State University. Dave joined the CHS in 1958 and attended his first convention in 1966. His first piece to appear in Bandwagon was in 1967 followed by more than a dozen over the years. He served as secretary 1968-69 and secretary/treasurer 1996-2003.
Robert F. Sabia
Trustee Emeritus Robert F. Sabia, a Connecticut product, and a US Army veteran spent adult life in business, much of it on the international circuit. An attorney by education (member of PA Bar), ran a construction business on the west coast, mass transit systems on the east coast, telecommunication systems throughout Europe, Middle East, Asia and South America, extensive involvement in US chemical agent destruction program, and power plant construction. Lifetime avocation has been the study of the circus business of the past. Member of CHS for over forty years and a Past President of CHS. Retired in Williamsburg, VA some five years ago.
Trustee Emeritus Richard J. Reynolds III of Atlanta, GA, holds undergraduate (1955) and law (1958) degrees from Emory University. He has been a CHS member since 1958, has served as President (1998-2001), and has been a Trustee since the 1997 reorganization, which he spearheaded. He practiced law in Atlanta for 33 years, until his retirement from the firm of Troutman-Sanders in 1991. He has written extensively for Bandwagon. In 1970 he was a founder of The Zoological Society of Atlanta which subsequently became a part of Zoo Atlanta. He has served as its historian. Additionally he has written many papers on Atlanta history, sports, animals and zoos. In addition to the United States, his works have been published in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Belgium. He has appeared on television internationally, nationally and locally regarding his interests.