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Visitors 'Step Right Up' to circus exhibit at Oklahoma museum

“Step Right Up! Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top, 1890-1965” continues through Aug. 11 at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid.
by Bryan Painter Modified: August 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm •  Published: August 3, 2013

ENID — Visitors to the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center are stepping right into the exhibit titled “Step Right Up.”

It's a step back in time into the history of the circus, not only under the big top but behind it.

Ask museum director Andi Holland about her favorite item, and she takes on the excitement of a child at a circus, darting from one item to the next.

Holland looks over to a red, white and blue horse bridal.

“I'm a horse fan, and so there's a whole section on how important horses were to the circus, which I found very interesting,” she said.

Then she moves to a photo of clown Gene Lewis painting the toenails of his “Big Feet” shoes. Looking at the oversized footwear, she said, “I would imagine he used a lot of red paint on those.”

“Step Right Up! Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top, 1890-1965” continues on display through Aug. 11. The exhibit is put on tour by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 communities each year.

Holland praises the traveling display of photos, circus posters and artifacts whether the latter were worn by elephants or the ringmaster.

“It's a fantastic exhibit and the reason we chose to bring it to the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center was that we have a circus history,” Holland said. “The Campbell Brothers Circus would winter near Drummond, which is just to the west of here.”

Plus, museum officials were certain the exhibit would stir memories.

“When we had the opportunity to bring this exhibit, we really jumped on that because in talking with our rural community guests they can remember very vividly the circus pulling into town on the train,” Holland said. “They remember meeting the train and watching them unload and then going to the circus.”

And with that, Holland makes her way to a panel and photos about water buckets provided to circus personnel.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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If you go

What: “Step Right Up! Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top, 1890-1965”

When: Through Aug. 11

Where: Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, 507 S Fourth St., Enid

For more information: Call (580) 237-1907 or go to

Admission: Adults, $5; seniors (ages 62 and older), $3; students with ID, $3; group rate (parties of 10 or more), $3 each. Active duty military, veterans and children 5 and younger get in free.


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