Our Town: Cascade’s unique connection to the circus

It's all because of a kind gesture extended to Al Ringling nearly 140 years ago.
Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 4:46 PM CDT
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CASCADE, Iowa (KCRG) - You’ve probably heard of the Ringling Brothers Circus. After a hiatus the last several years, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is kicking off a North American Tour this fall - without animals.

If anyone from Our Town Cascade wants to enjoy the show, admission is free. It’s all because of a kind gesture extended to Al Ringling nearly 140 years ago.

Lee Simon with the Tri-County Historical Society told KCRG-TV9 the story. As Simon explains it, Yankee Robinson Shows, which became the Ringling Brothers circus, was hit by a storm in Onslow in Jones County in the 1880s, leaving the tent and equipment damaged.

To salvage what was left of the circus, some of the troupe went to Monticello but it didn’t work out there and someone suggested they try Cascade. The mayor was won over by Al Ringling’s plea and made arrangements to bring the circus to town. As the story goes, the circus hosted two shows in Cascade with two huge crowds.

The receipts from the Cascade performances were enough to pay the bills with money left over to give them a fresh start. Later, the circus returned to the Jones County area, and Ringling told the story to the audience.

“He explained to the crowd how much Cascade had done for him, and he says I’m going to tell you right now, anybody from Cascade can go in that thing for free, and then he told later that he says anywhere on the Earth anybody from Cascade will go in for free, and they did it, and it’s still in effect today because it happened in Cedar Rapids. It happened in Des Moines,” said Lee Simon with the Tri-County Historical Society.

If you want to learn more about the history of Cascade and the surrounding communities, you can visit the Tri-County Historical Society.