From the Archives, July 7, 2024

Scout Circus

Every April for about a decade–1954 to 1962–the Middle Tennessee Council held a Scout Circus. A Scout Circus was enormous event, open to the public, showcasing Scouting. In effect, the Scouts of the Middle Tennessee Council put on an enormous stage show at the state fairgrounds in Nashville every night showcasing Scouting. It was a promotional event to top all promotional events.

The circus changed some from year to year, but included many of the spectacles one would expect to stay. The first circus opened with a parade of 10,700 uniformed Scouts with approximately 5000 participating in the twelve sections, or “events.” Cubs had a section playing different characters, depending on the theme, and also clowns! A section was devoted to demonstrating Scoutcraft and another to an emergency services demonstration. There was also an “Indian show” as well as a patriotic or reverential closing. The program began at 7:30 p.m. and ran approximately 90 to 120 minutes. Scouts sold tickets to the event.

Seen here in an image by _Nashville Banner_ staff photographer Bob Ray are four Cub Scouts rehearsing their parts before the big event in 1958. There were 8000 Scouts who participated in the program that year, making it one of the largest on record. According to the caption in the published photo, Monday, April 21, 1958, “John Foley and Philip Daugherty become a two-headed lady, Bill Hunt is transformed into a clown and Mike Spore becomes a strong man as Pack 45 of Christ the King Church gets ready for the Boy Scout Circus” (pg. 8).

Collection of John Cooper & Ernie Ragsdale

Cub Scouts prepare for the 1958 Scout Circus, April 1959. Photo by Banner photographer Bob Ray.

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