2020 Circus Historical Society Convention
P.T. Barnum & Circus Smirkus!
The Circus Historical Society will hold its 2020 annual convention July 26 – 29 at the Trumbull Marriott near Bridgeport Connecticut. Situated about 5 miles from the historic Barnum Museum and 50 miles from New York City, the Trumbull Marriot will be the perfect venue for circus historians to meet and explore the rich circus history of New England and New York City. The hotel is located at the intersection of the Merritt Parkway and Connecticut Route 8. It is easily accessible by automobile from Interstates 95, 84 and 91 and by shuttle bus from each of the New York City-area airports. The hotel can also be reached by rail via Amtrak and Metro-North Railroad. The hotel provides free shuttle service to both the Bridgeport and Stratford railroad stations.
The convention will officially begin on Sunday evening July 26 with a Gala Opening Reception in the Marriott’s party tent. The Reception will include a sumptuous buffet, cash bar and plenty of music and live entertainment. The Convention Registration Desk and Sales Room will be open on Sunday afternoon before the Reception.
Monday will be filled with several fascinating presentations from leading circus historians. The day will end with the CHS Annual Banquet featuring Troy Wunderle as the keynote speaker. Wunderle is Artistic Director of Circus Smirkus. He is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. He spent six years as Director of Clowning for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and is a juried artist through the Vermont State Arts Council. For the past 24 years, Wunderle has toured throughout the United States as a freelance performer and employee of Circus Smirkus. His antics have been featured on the Disney channel, The Today Show, Martha Stewart, Chronicle, Fetch, Fox and Friends and Americas Funniest Home Videos.
On Tuesday, conventioneers will “meet” Mr. Barnum and learn about the circus history of Bridgeport Connecticut. The day will begin with presentations about P. T. Barnum, Tom Thumb, the Barnum Museum, the Barnum & Bailey winter quarters and other nearby historic circus sites.
After lunch, the group will visit downtown Bridgeport to take a “hard hat” tour of the famous Barnum Museum, which is currently undergoing renovations. The group will also have an opportunity to visit the circus artifacts collection at the Bridgeport History Center which is two blocks from the museum.
The CHS group will then drive to nearby Mountain Grove Cemetery to see P. T. Barnum and Tom Thumb’s gravesites. Next up will be a “windshield tour” of beautiful Seaside Park, one of Barnum’s many generous gifts to the city. The drive will include a view of the impressive Barnum memorial statue which overlooks Long Island Sound.
Next, the group will pass by Wendt Field where the Barnum & Bailey winter quarters was located for almost 50 years. After the Bridgeport field trip, Convention registrants will return to the Trumbull Marriott for the traditional CHS auction of historic circus posters, books, artifacts and other circus-related memorabilia.
Wednesday will be circus day at the CHS Convention. The group will travel about 60 miles to the Simsbury Connecticut Performing Arts Center to spend the day with Circus Smirkus. Since 1987, Circus Smirkus has been bringing the transforming power of the circus arts to people of all ages. Performing under a colorful big top, this award-winning circus company consists of some 80 people including teenage performers, professional circus coaches, tent and technical crew and a live circus band performing an original score. CHS members will visit with the performers and crew while on the lot and attend the afternoon performance.
Although the official convention program will end with the circus performance, conventioneers will have an opportunity to travel on their own to nearby Hartford, Connecticut to visit the site of the 1944 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey big top fire. Other nearby circus-related attractions include the Beinecke Rare Book Library and Peabody Museum at Yale University in New Haven and the Historic Elephant Hotel in Somers, New York. Further details about these and other New England and New York City area circus historical attractions will be posted on the CHS website.
Hotel Reservations & Convention Registration
CHS members will receive a reduced room rate of only $125 per night (plus taxes) at the Trumbull Marriott. That rate incudes free parking and breakfast for two. Since some people may want to arrive earlier or stay later, the Trumbull Marriott will honor that rate for three days before July 26 and for three days after July 28. In order to take advantage of the discounted convention rate, please make your hotel reservation as soon as possible by calling (203) 378-1400 or visiting here. Ask for the Circus Historical Society rate. The CHS room rate Block will close on June 26, 2020.
The “early bird” convention Registration Fee for CHS members and their spouse/guest is $180 each. The non-member Registration Fee, which includes a new CHS membership, is $240 per person. The Registration Fee for full-time students is $100. There will be an additional Late Fee of $25 for all registrations received after June 1, 2020 and before July 26, 2020. There will be a $50 Late Fee for all on-site registrations. Tickets to Circus Smirkus are priced at $20 each. The roundtrip bus fare to Circus Smirkus is $25 each.
Please register either online by going to the CHS website at www.circushistory.org/ or by mail by using the enclosed registration form. Remember to register before June 1, 2020 to save $25 on your registration fee!
To help the Convention Committee plan the transposition aspects of “field trips,” please indicate on your registration if you will have a vehicle at the convention, and if you will be able to provide rides to other conventioneers to the Bridgeport sites on Tuesday July 28 and/or to Circus Smirkus in Simsbury on Wednesday July 29. Total mileage for the Tuesday excursions will be about 15 miles. Roundtrip to Simsbury on Wednesday will be about 120 miles.