The Ringling Bros and Cascade History Part II
The Brothers had heard rumors that Cascade enjoyed good performances, so Al Ringling, the producer of the show, made his way over the muddy roads to Cascade. When he reached Cascade, Al Ringling immediately met with and made friends with two prominent Cascade citizens, Isaac W. Baldwin and RJ McVay. Isaac Baldwin held two prominent positions; he was the mayor of the town and the publisher of the town’s newspaper. RJ McVay did Cascade’s banking privately as there was no formal bank at the time.
The mayor issued the permit for the circus performance without requiring payment of a fee. He then printed handbills in his printing establishment to advertise the show. He extended credit for his services until after the show. Mr. McVay advanced the money necessary to finance the transportation, feed and other expenses. Several Cascade boys offered their assistance in helping the company get through the muddy roads from Monticello to Cascade. They distributed the advertising through-out the countryside along the way.
After a couple days of preparation, the tent was set up, a lemonade stand erected and in record time that tattered old tent held a full house for the afternoon circus performance in Cascade. The Ringling Brothers were pleased, but there was more to come. A crowd swept in from the countryside to see the much advertised evening performance. So many people came that there simply wasn’t room for them all.
The receipts from the Cascade performances were enough to pay the bills with money left over to give them a fresh start. From that point on, the Ringling Brothers Circus prospered.
It was not long before the circus took to the railways for travel. That meant that the circus could not return to Cascade as Cascade was served by a narrow gauge rail; standard rail cars could not travel on the narrow tracks. Years passed and all would have thought that the Ringling Brothers would have forgotten about the little town which they would never visit again.
Several years after the Cascade performance, a group of Cascade friends, “Shorty” Parrott, Ad Severence and Frank Snowden went to see The Ringling Brothers Circus performance in Monticello. They listened as Al Ringling captivated the crowd with his extravagant depiction of the wonders of the circus. They were startled as Al suddenly interrupted his speech to exclaim “Why, there’s Shorty and some of the boys from Cascade. Come up here on this platform!” He enthusiastically shook their hands and described to the crowd how Cascade helped the circus. Al Ringling said, “Anyone from Cascade is free to this show anytime. These boys will be at the door to identify anyone from Cascade and pass ‘em in. That goes for any place we may show on this earth. Anyone from Cascade has the run of the grounds wherever we are.”
The Ringling Brothers Circus continued to expand, acquiring the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and became known as the “Greatest Show on Earth”. Through the years, the circus has remained true to their word and citizens of Cascade have been able to attend the circus free of charge wherever the show has performed.