INDIANAPOLIS — As the sun begins to set on the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus, the perennial childhood dream of running away to the circus may soon be just that — a dream. But the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis’ new exhibit — “The Circus — Starring YOU!” — brings that dream back in living color with three rings of circus fun. Here are five things to keep in mind as you tour the exhibit.

Showcasing the spectacular

Presentation is everything, and the circus knew that. To enter the exhibit area for “The Circus — Starring YOU!” is to enter into a world of vibrant, breathtaking color and pageantry. The bold red, yellow, blue and purple triangle graphic motif, the bright marquee lights and the floor areas separated into circular performance rings leave no doubt that you are in the big top for the greatest show on earth. Sequined and feathered costumes on display — worn by performers and animals both — enhance the aura of exotic elegance.Taking center stageFor anyone who has ever wondered how easy or difficult the most basic of circus tricks can be — wonder no more. “The Circus — Starring YOU!” presents the opportunity to try your hand at some of the most traditional circus routines including trapeze-style rings, the Roman ladders acrobatic stunt, the rolla-bolla balancing board, a stationary unicycle and a tightrope — securely level with the floor. A virtual reality tightrope experience is also a popular feature of the hands-on exhibit.

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Stretching back generations

A circus family album display reveals pages and photos of circus families: the five brothers of the Ringling family, animal trainer Clyde Beatty and his wife, aerial performer Harriett Evans; the nine members of the Stirk family bicyclists; the five generations of the Flying Wallendas high-wire act. All of which makes this an exhibit perfect for families.

Making Hoosier connections

Throughout the exhibit, there is frequent mention of Peru, Indiana, also known as the Circus Capital of the World. The Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, part-owned by Ben Wallace, a former stable boy from Peru, spent winters at the Wallace farm on the banks of the Wabash River, along with several other circuses who traveled throughout the Midwest, including the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus. A number of circus posters and artifacts in the exhibit are on loan from the Miami County Museum in Peru.

Planning your family visit

“The Circus — Starring YOU!” is open daily at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, 3000 N. Meridian St. through Nov. 26. Rotating exhibit programs include clown classes and circus physics. Circus foods such as cotton candy are available in the food court. The museum now features plan-ahead ticket pricing, so check the website at to pick your day and pick your price.

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Christine Schaefer is arts editor and editorial assistant at the Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3222 or