To the editor:
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls of all ages, the man you are about to see at the 156-year edition of the Shelby Couty Fair will astound and amaze your family. From humble beginnings, Ward Hall has risen to the top of his industry, the great American sideshow. This will be the free opportunity to experience a part of American carnival and circus history dating back to 1829, when small sideshows sprang up in America. By the 1840s, they began hitting their stride. In 1842, P.T. Barnum introduced to the public the “Feegee Mermaid,” a monkey with the tail of a fish and Gen. Tom Thumb.
Every now and then, a magician would be added to the show, along with performance artists who had unusual talents, such as fire-eating and sword-swallowing.
Ward’s show has performed many times at the Ohio State Fair and the Florida State Fair and has played the Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia state fairs and the Canadian National Exhibition and the Eastern States Exposition.
Ward Hall’s title, “King of the Sideshow,” is not new or a recent coronation. The year 2016 is Ward’s 72nd year in show business. As a 15-year-old living in Colorado, he ran away and joined the Daily Brothers Circus. By 16, he was performing in a sideshow, and by the age of 21, he owned a sideshow.
In addition to owning or co-owning sideshows and circuses, Ward has written four books, four musical stage productions, has appeared in seven movies and more than 100 videos and television specials, performed at Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Center in New York City and has sung at Carnegie Hall.
Ward has operated sideshows for many big-time circuses, including Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Al G. Kelly & Miller Brothers Circus, Circus Vargas (where he was part-owner) and the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus.
As a carnival fan for 22 years, I met Ward several years ago at the Ohio State Fair. Ward has an extraordinary memory, the exaggerative dialogue of a Ginsu Knife salesman and a sequined wardrobe that would have made Liberace turn his head.
I would like to thank the Shelby County Fair Board, Hemmelgarn Services Inc. and the Sidney Daily News for bringing this free attraction to our county fair.
Carl R. Sharp