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Ringling, Akron, and the 'Blue Heaven' Circuit

Ringling, Akron & the ‘Blue Heaven’ Circuit

Discover the role that Akron played in the rebuilding of the Ringling Brothers circus after a horrific 1944 fire.

PBS Western Reserve (WNEO 45.1 / WEAO 49.1):

Tuesday, Aug. 29, at 8 PM
Wednesday, Aug. 30, at 1 AM
Friday, Sept. 1, at 5 PM
Saturday, Sept. 2, at 8 PM
Sunday, Sept. 3, at midnight
Monday, Sept. 25, at 5 AM

FUSION (WNEO 45.2 / WEAO 49.2):

Saturday, Sept. 2, at 4 PM

On July 6, 1944, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus suffered the worst fire in circus history during a performance in Hartford, Conn., killing 167 people and injuring hundreds more.

Between lawsuits and material losses, including the 19-ton big top, rumors emerged that the circus was facing bankruptcy. If it were to survive, it would have to get back on the road as soon as possible to pay off the mounting claims — but it had no big top and the rest of the season had been canceled. Where would it go to restart the 1944 tour? How would it perform without its massive canvas tent? Ringling officials needed to make decisions quickly.

The vital post-fire tour needed to kick off in a circus-friendly town. Ringling officials had one in mind — the circus would restart in Akron, Ohio, at the Rubber Bowl. Akron Beacon Journal editor Murray Powers had nicknamed the new tour the “Blue Heaven Circuit.” That initial stand in Akron was for six shows on Aug. 4-6, barely a month after the Hartford fire. “Blue Heaven Circuit” faced an avalanche of adversities while performing in Akron; nevertheless, its appearance in Rubber City played an integral role in rebuilding the Ringling Bros. circus in its moment of greatest desperation.

RINGLING, AKRON & THE ‘BLUE HEAVEN’ CIRCUIT documents the desperate journey of the Ringling Bros. tour in Akron. This local production is directed by filmmaker and journalist Fred Endres of Stow, Ohio, with the support of Kent State University and University of Akron students and staff. Veteran television broadcaster John Butte narrates the program.

Ringling, Akron, and the 'Blue Heaven' Circuit
PBS Western Reserve Specials

Preview: Ringling, Akron & the ‘Blue Heaven’ Circuit


Discover the role that Akron played in the rebuilding of the Ringling Brothers circus.