The Circus Comes to Heritage Days in Plover

The circus has come to Plover. This weekend the annual Heritage Days event at Heritage Park kicked off a two year exhibit that's all about the circus and it's rich history in Portage County.

Believe it or not, in the late 19th century there were more circuses out of the State of Wisconsin than any other stare except Oklahoma. The temporary exhibit highlights the Engford family who started their own traveling circus three generations ago. Ruthie Engford-Clark's grandfather founded Engford Family Shows here in Wisconsin then took his act on the road. Engford-Clark, her father and her husband were also circus performers.

"The act that I performed with my family was what you would call today gymnastics. It was hand balancing, a lot of flexible back bending work." Engford-Clark tells NewsChannel 7. "My dream was to always work up in the air and so that's what I did."

Engford-Clark says she and her husband never miss Heritage Days, even after moving to Florida. Every year they host the Engford House where Engford-Clark and her family lived. The Portage County Historical Society even pulled out the old caravans the circus used for traveling. Organizers say they hope to show visitors what life was like for early circus performers.

"It will hopefully give people a sense of belonging, of the history of the county and how unique it is, and develop that connection with their own past, the county's past," Portage County Historical Society President Tim Siebert says.

The circus exhibit along with the other permanent exhibits at Heritage Park, including the old school house, train depot and blacksmith shop, will be open every weekend now through Labor Day.

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