week at "Crossroads Village"...
Home of the "Huckleberry Railroad"...
A 19th century amusement park with a real
steam train on eight miles of track features
a Jesse James style train robbery, also a
real paddlewheeler with a live band playing
all night in the middle of a beautiful
Best thing in the park is a 1912 Parker
Carousel with real wooden horses...
Except for maybe Carla Wallenda performing
high above, and Prof. Laszlo presenting an
educational lecture on the American Circus
Menagerie followed by an invitation to visit
the strange "Giants of the Jungle"...
Inner city neighborhood rec
center parking lot?
An oasis of culture in a bleak and desolate area
of public assisted housing and closed
A pool, a game room, a fitness center, and armed
Provided by the City?
On the streets, the natives are also armed?
The carnival makes a stand?
As we lay the lot, Colonel Jarhead spots a
bullet on the pavement?
"My military background tells me that this slug
came from a distance at a twenty degree
trajectory" He states rather matter of factly?
" I feel like going a great distance at a ninety
degree trajectory" replies Chief Punkslapper?
I calmly remind him that we open on the
fifteenth, and the checks conveniently land on
the same day?
They eyeball me for a minute, look at one
another, and Chief says, ""Good point Professor,
we'll risk it!"?
To be continued?
As we spot the loads, the prevailing mood is
This is a scary place, the neighborhood looks
like a war zone, we appear to be the only white
people around, and the heat on the
asphalt lot is unbearable?
By the time all the rides, joints, and shows are
placed on location and ready to set up, we are
Col. Jarhead, ( ex marine, Vietnam era, now
general manager of concessions ) pulls up on the
golf cart with Chief Punkslapper, (lifelong
Showman, circus fan, carnival historian, ride
expert, now ride superintendent )?
"Get on, Professor, council of war at the
The cart lands in a secluded spot behind the rec
center in the shade of a big maple tree, and
even before we stop rolling, the doobie is being
"F-ing advance man, booking the show into the
"Relax Colonel," I respond, "This may work out
"We're gonna end up in cooking pots like
missionaries." Comments Chief Punkslapper?
"Boys, we're Showmen, we can handle this too" ?
"I hope you're right Professor, but I have my
doubts, pass that thing will you"?
to be continued?
Overnight, the show takes form in the reddish
glare of sodium streetlights. The Carnies move
in an antlike procession carrying endless bits
and pieces assembled into an intricate sculpture
that casts monochrome shadows on the asphalt?
No green help?
By the first light of day, all movement had
It was now a Carnival?
The Carnies were all passed out in the bunkhouse
trailers and RVs pulled alongside the rec
Not from liquor, not from drugs, just plain
The other two will doubtless follow?
First we must meet the Natives?
to be continued?
Nine in the morning in the ghetto and before I
could finish my coffee the excrement collides
with the ventilator?
Col. Jarhead does a Barney Oldfield maneuver on
the cart and pulls up like Hell Drivers on the
"Get in! It's a native uprising! The jungle
drums are calling for war!"
We streak for the rec center?
The all black committee is up in arms. It seems
that some of our people had offended them?
I mentally reviewed what had been going around,
and was a little disconcerted when I recalled
that even I had referred to the festival as the
"African State Fair"?
Mrs. Willcox was large and in charge. She was an
older black lady who was heading up the festival
They had provided water and 24
hour electric for the support trailers, they had left a door
unlocked on the side of the rec center so we could get in at
night, they had given us access to the locker rooms so the
ride boys could shower, we
had use of the sauna, the pool, the weight room, Nautilus
gear, carte blanche?
This led to the problem?
This morning was the teenage girls basketball team practice?
It appears that Heckle and Jeckle, the two adolescent
(twelve and fourteen) sons of Wheel Man John, had sneaked
into the girls locker room and concealed themselves in the
lockers to verify the rumor that it was all indeed pink
The plan fell apart when the older brother passed out and
tumbled from the locker as the girls were snapping one
another with towels after their shower?
When the head of the sponsoring organization asked me what I
thought of the boy's behavior, I had to reply?
"You know Mrs. Wilcox, under the circumstances, I think I
might have passed out myself!"
Jim Z's experience in West Allis Wisconsin at the State Fair
is nothing short of typical...
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit approved the use of a city
park for our small carnival to day and date the State Fair
less than a block away...
Our sponsor was the Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church...
I had attempted to book all of our attractions to the State
Fair, knowing fully well that it would never happen, and of
course it was rejected...
My plan was to advertise our show as "Banned from the State
The State Fair has a high admission charge at the gate...
Our show would have been free...
The political strings that were pulled to prevent this
extended through many powerful factions of city
The forces that wanted to stop us finally succeeded by a
police order requiring us to hire fifty officers at thirty
seven fifty per hour for "security"...
This of course was impossible for us to overcome...
It would have been interesting to see if our "alternative
fair" would have given the Michigan State Fair a run for the
If competition is the American way, apparently, fairs want
no part of it...
At least we pissed them off...
Our show moved on...
In the future, we will find a way to day and date major
fairs, and offer the public a better show for less money...
Sideshows will be a part of it...
David brought down Goliath...
One petty official simply cannot be permitted to prevent the
people of Wisconsin from seeing a sideshow, after all
Wisconsin is the ancestral home of the Ringlings and a state
rich in circus history...