The Sells-Floto circus was the second largest show on earth in 1926. It travelled with its own trains, in fact its own city. It transported 1,000 people, horses, camels and three herds of elephants. There was a Wild West show, trapeze artists and over 50 clowns. Sells-Floto was an operation at the top of its game at a time when Western Canada was ready to be entertained. After all this was the "Roarin' '20s".
The steel-framed and clad Pullman cars that transported the animals were 70 feet long and very heavy. Inside each car was a well-oiled machine ready to roll out and throw up a circus city in a morning And there was one car with 50 people working in it solely devoted to getting the word out - "The Circus Is In Town." They had their own publicity flacks, poster distributors and promoters of all sizes and shapes.
It was a competitive environment. In Cranbrook in 1926 the Heritage Brothers circus touched down on June 24th, with Sells-Floto coming in a month later. There was also the Chautauqua, the Fall Fair and a number of other events scheduled. The circus was geared to competition, and presented thrills, chills and the most beautiful women in the country. Combine that with lions, tigers and dancing elephants, a Wild West show and a large brass band and one had a formula that magnetically drew one and all to the large tents.
Typically the circus trains hit town early in the morning, around 8 a.m. Like clockwork first the people cars unloaded men and women fresh from sleep and breakfast. They, in turn, unloaded the horses, elephants and other animals used to transport the heavy wagons. Then from the flatcars came the wagons, brightly painted and loaded with the stakes poles, canvas, lights, generators, ticket booths - everything required to set up circus city.
To the joy of hundreds of local boys, girls, men and women who turned out to watch the spectacle, horses, motor tractors and elephants were hooked to the fabulous circus wagons. Everything was hauled to the fairground - in Cranbrook on Joseph's Prairie - and a well-practiced routine had stake gangs competing with the stake-driving machines while others rigged the tall poles and hauled them into the air. Then the canvas was rolled out, stitched together and hauled into the air, creating a domed world. Such was the discipline that, in Cranbrook, even with the escape of the elephants and the flurried pursuit of these animals, the circus city was up on time and ready for the 2 p.m. scheduled performance.
"Ladies and Gentlemen - the Show Must Go On!"