The Big Blow Down

On the May 1st issue of the Churchill County Eagle the headline reads, “Circus Tent Blown Down – Audience’s Narrow Escape.” You may remember from our last post that the AI. G Barnes Circus was scheduled to come to Fallon in April of 1915 and was comprised of 600 people and animals.  This show was such a big deal that even though it fell on a Wednesday, the Eagle reports that, “School teachers and children were given a holiday from school” to attend the circus.

Unfortunately, two thirds of the way through the first show, the wind speed was so great that the whole tent came down. The Eagle reported, “No one had any idea until the center of the tent began to rise. At the time, a horse act and a bear and man wrestling match were on.” Can you imagine being in a tent with elephants, monkeys, lions, tigers and bears, when the ceiling comes crashing down? What mayhem! A few excerpts from various Eagle articles include, “The elephants had been left unchained after one act and were waiting for another.” “The camels were controlled and removed with great difficulty.” “The ostriches were turned loose and ran around with their heads to the ground looking for a hole to put them in.”  “ One woman with a little boy crawled under a wagon, thinking they would be safe there, After remaining a few moments she discovered a bear tied at her side and she took a desperate charge in running across the arena.” Fortunately there were very few injuries, “By quick work on the part of the employees, every horse and caged animal was hurried outside before the tent came down. The tent was torn to shreds.” The whole mess was cleaned up by 8 pm. The evening show was cancelled, the 25 cent tickets were refunded to who ever asked, and the estimated financial loss was $5,000. The Barnes circus was scheduled to perform in Lovelock the very next day, which also ended up being cancelled due to extensive rain. At the end of the day when the Barnes Manager was asked about the event he said the Churchill County audience was the best behaved crowd he had ever seen, “And I have been in the show business for 30 years. “ He also said that, “If the same incident happened with a city–bred crowd, people by the score would have been trapped to death, but here they kept their heads and were orderly.”

The next issue of the Churchill County Eagle from May 8th 1915 was filled with notices concerning lost bits and pieces from the aftermath of the blow down. “Sherriff Coniff had a load of personal effects turned over to him after the wreck of the circus tent.” Most of the items were hats, coats, sweaters and purses.

One story that surfaced after the blow down made its way to the Eagle pages where it  was titled, “You may believe it if you want to.” This article told the tale of a Shetland colt and an Elephant. The colt, according to the story, “stood trembling with fright, and the elephant reached out with its trunk and pulled it to shelter under its great form.”

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