The Great Cranbrook Elephant Hunt

The Parade

Circus Wagon : One of the caged wagons used for transporting portions of the menagerie between train cars and circu
Circus Wagon

When the circus came to town it brought with it its own very effective means of self-promotion. First there were the promotional people - the flacks who papered the countryside with posters for "The Greatest Show On Earth." They also placed advertisements in the local newspapers and had people entering the local coffee and barber shops, hotels and restaurants, talking up and promoting the event.

Next was the arrival itself. People flocked to the railway sidings early in the morning. They crowded around to watch the animals disembark. Herds of horses flowed out of the large railway cars, followed by llamas, camels, caged lions and tigers, chimpanzees, hippopotami - and the stars of the show, herds of elephants.

The working animals were hooked to large wagons for the pull to the fairgrounds. Like the circus people, the animals fulfilled several roles. In the morning and at night they were motive power for the groaning wagons loaded with materials or caged large cats. During the performances they were decked out in circus finery and pranced, danced and did tricks in one of the three large rings under the big top.

Perhaps the most exciting event of all, however, was the parade. At least once a day, before the afternoon performance, the animals were tricked out in their finery and the horses were hitched to the large wagon cages transporting the performing lions and tigers. The chimps were loaded into their enclosures and the clowns were dressed and made-up appropriately. All was marshaled and then led out by the circus band, dressed in glistening white uniforms. Then down Baker Street (and every other main street) the whole troupe went, creating a chaos of sound and colour and magic. Just as the Pied Piper of Hamelin town, the circus parade led one and all to circus city, to the ticket office and to the wonderful performances.

The circus parade was an institution. It was HOW the circus did business. The parade announced and showed the goods. Bejeweled and beautiful women rode high on the heads of huge elephants or were comfortably saddled between the humps of North America's largest camel. In short skirts and high boots, cracking bull whips, the buxom lady lion tamers strutted Baker Street promising a show that no one would forget.

The Norris & Rowe circus in 1907 advertised 42 double length railway cars, 500 circus people and 350 horses as well as thundering Roman chariot races, camels lions, herds of elephants and a GRAND STREET PARADE daily at 10:30. When the Heritage Brothers big 3 ring circus came to town on July 10th, 1926, they had 300 people, 200 horses, droves of camels and herds of elephants and a DAILY STREET PARADE at noon. It stands to reason - the circus is in town and the show is everything. Let the people know what they are to expect with the wonderful carved wagons, caged tigers and performing elephants.

Sells-Floto Circus Elephants : Irene Ledgett is shown in a 1925 publicity photo with the Sells-Floto Circus elephant herd, doing a
Sells-Floto Circus Elephants

When the Sells-Floto Circus poster came out advertising the Friday, August 6th, 1926, shows in Cranbrook, it had an added insert. The insert read, in part, "No Street Parade!" There was some talk of the inadvisability of street parades now that the roads were congested with automobiles, but no one referred to the fact that Sells-Floto elephant stampedes had already occurred in Edmonton and Calgary prior to arriving in Cranbrook. Whatever the reason, Sells-Floto did not have a parade in Cranbrook, but it did have a third elephant stampede.