I recently got to visit "Circus City" for the second time.
My husband and I took a 30 minute detour from our route in order to have breakfast at Angie's Circus City Diner. We ended up with much more than a dining adventure.
Nearly 20 Years Ago
I had been told the small town was the winter home to the Carson and Barnes Circus. Surely we could pat a baby lion or watch trapeze artists train! Or maybe we could just have a picnic and then stare over the fence towards some circus trucks and a distant pen of elephants. Good enough!
Feasting with the Locals
So a few days ago, I talked Don into helping me give the town one more try. At Angie's, we could eat breakfast and feast our eyes on circus memorabilia.
When we made our mid-morning entrance, diners looked up to take note of the folks who were "passing through." The crowds had thinned by the time I pulled out the camera, but there were quite a few still lingering over coffee or chatting with Shamisha, the cashier.
After ordering, I wasn't a bit shy about wandering the cafe and absorbing all the clowns and elephants that covered windowsills and counters.
I studied the colorful posters plastering the walls and learned that there were actually numerous circuses that had called Hugo "home".
Samisha was more than happy to chat with me, in between checking out the customers... who called her by name and often teased her. She told me about the time she took her 3 small children to see the circus in Paris, TX.
"Oh the circus was wonderful, but my kids were so wild. I had us sitting at the top so no one could see when they misbehaved! I even tried using those little harness things and those worked terrible. " She said they didn't try to stay more than an hour and as they moved down to exit, her little boy made a dash into the ring. "It was so embarrassing!"
But when I came back after having my little boy, I touched it again and next thing, I was pregnant with my twin girls. I don't touch it anymore."
Shamisha showed me the photo of the clown who used to wear the shoes and hat. The clown is (or was) just one of many circus locals who frequents the cafe. Evidently he came in one day and said they could add his shoes and hat to the decor. He was retiring... to become a nurse.
Back to the Table
I returned to the table, where Don had not been ignored. A soft spoken man had passed by the table with a greeting, "The Lord's been good to you today, hasn't he?"
Don, wasn't sure if the question needed a reply but he answered, "Absolutely!" Then he sipped his coffee and enjoyed the conversation of the men behind him, who were flipping coins to determine who paid the bill. Before the last 2 left the table, I heard one tell the other, "Let's blow this popsicle stand!"
Our server Levi, kept our circus mugs full until our plates arrived. I went for a couple of fried eggs, bacon, hash-browns, biscuits and gravy.
All good! Angie herself had cooked up those biscuits in the kitchen. They were a perfect blend for people like me, who can't decide which they like better, biscuits or rolls! Half of Don's huge omelet went out the door with us in a box.
Breakfast Clubbers Depart
But nobody was in a big hurry to leave, because the real conversations seemed to start up near the cash register. One fellow laughed that I hadn't taken his picture yet. I was happy to have him pose, but he got distracted with Samisha, telling her he wanted to pay the bill for a man across the room. Then he turned back to me and got serious about the circus locals. "You know a lot of people don't have high opinions of circus folk. But they are some of the hardest working people in the community. In fact one of the circus owners who lived here retired and then he became town manager. People figured anyone who can run a circus, can run a town!"
Post Breakfast Adventures
Endangered Ark Foundation
I am a huge fan of elephants and yes I know the controversy about circus animals. But I would like very much to believe "Ark" is a good thing.
Don and I peered through the fence, since tours are only given on Saturdays. Bill, who was mowing the property, took a break and filled us in about the non-profit foundation dedicated to endangered Asian elephants. "There are 12 or 14 here now. It's a farm for retired circus elephants. But they aren't all old, 'cause they breed elephants, too." He pointed to the youngest, 4 year old "Hugo" who hanging out near his aunt. Looks like I may have to visit Hugo one more time (on a visiting day) to see the talented little guy, who can paint!
Trucks, Trailers and Barns
We followed more tips from the diner folks and traveled down the road to see more signs of circus.
Since June is when circuses are on the road, I was glad to see at least a few colorful goodies left behind. A ticket trailer here and concessions truck there!
And a Stop at Showman's Rest
Some might think that's an odd outing, especially for kids. But the folks at the diner encouraged a visit.
A Welcoming Place
It's pretty clear that Hugo is proud of its circus heroes. And I'm guessing that these festive looking gravestones were meant to be enjoyed.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.