A HISTORY OF THE CIRCASS
By Phineas Fafoofnick
From the August 6, 1972 Alton Almanac
Today’s event is an Alton tradition that even pre-dates the Doctor. The Circass (that’s circass) has always been an interesting, if not amusing, time for all. Several famous acts have gained tremendous notoriety by their appearance in the show, as have numerous camp characters by their participation in the annual events.
As the custom goes, the Circass is divided into two parts - one part entertainment, the other carnival. On this afternoon the Rocks are transformed into a three-ring arena in which acts from all over the world are viewed. There are the traditional events - wrestling, pie eating, balloon blowing, Niagara Falls, etc. Many a great Altonite has received fame and glory through these events. Who can forget Steve Barkin’s miraculous devouring of a blueberry pie in a record 8 seconds? Who can help but remember little Mighty Mouse Merritt wrestling and pinning old Ed Dolbeare in 1960? And how about Arthur Levesque’s trip to Niagara Falls?
However, it is the special acts that illuminate the memory of past Circasses. Andrews Sisters have come and gone over the years. Kasher, Snyder, Singal, Waldstein, Fine, Kraft, Yewdell, Fox... the list is infinite in its testimony to the eternity of the Circass. Record pantomimes have always been classic. “Along Came Jones” stands out as one of the all-time great skits. “Eh, eh, and then along came Jones.” Then there was Little Red Riding Hood starring Goody, Biff et al.
Perhaps the most consistently entertaining act to bless the Alton Circass arena was Mallick and Davis. Vaudevillian troopers from the word go, they created such classic routines as “Who’s on First?”, “The Chinese Waiter”, “Man on the Street.” For you younger kids who were just gleams in your fathers' eye when Mike and Hal were rolling them in the aisles, albums of their greatest routines are now available by mail order (just include $19.19 for handling).
Probably the most daring and death defying acts ever performed was the Fat City Statue Club. If one has never witnessed the spectacle itself, it is impossible to describe by use of the mere written word. Imagine Buddha Greenfield gingerly and gracefully doing creative dancing on the frail bodies of the likes of Tilly and Juicy. Yet it was more than an act. It was a mystical experience.
Animal acts have always been excellent attractions at the Circass. The most well known was Stoney’s dog, Sandy or was Sandy’s dog, Stoney. In any case they both bit. But who can forget that tender and sentimental moment when Stoney would say, “Say your prayer Sandy,” and the dog would kneel down and pray feverishly. After all those years we finally know what she was praying for - she wanted to be asked out by Gary Markoff.
Now the Circass does not end after the festivities at the Rocks. Next is the thrilling fair that encompasses the corral area. Games of skill and luck are in abundance and valuable prizes wait to be won. Vengeance is mine sayeth the camper at the corral as two (not one) of those infamous counselor dunks are always in operation.
Of course the most popular booth is the Crayfish Race Track. Here thoroughbred crayfish from the world’s seven seas are flown in by special aquaplanes to compete in the combined Triple Crown of the world of crayfish racing, the “Sport of Queens.” Racing scratch sheets are distributed at an earlier time so that all campers can scientifically figure out their bets on all eight races. A direct phone hook-up to Arthur’s Farm is set up with Babe Parilli and Bob Cousy manning the phones. Who can forget such winning crayfish studs as Guido Guille, Van Lingo Mungo and Steven J. Field? I know I can’t.
A recently added tradition to the Circass day is the evening cookout, reputed to be second only to an LBJ barbecue.
And of course one of the most exciting traditions connected with the Circass is the beginning of flag-making process for the Rush.
So, there it is, a little background information on today’s event. Today is Mardi Gras time at Camp Alton. It is a chance to let it all hang out, a time for unbounded merriment. So don’t hold anything back, pull out the stopper, no holds barred, etc. Yes, think about the hallowed tradition that surrounds you on this day. Yes, today is THE CIRCASS.