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TV show to feature Ringling Mansion’s ‘mini circus’

March 19, 2018 GMT

A Baraboo historic site’s toy will be on display for a national television audience Monday .

Actually, the next episode of “Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby” on the Fox Business Network will feature more than 60,000 toys the Al. Ringling Mansion has acquired.

The show tells the story of a Virginia man whose Big Top obsession led him to carve and paint a 62,157-piece miniature circus, and how the exhibit wound up at the former home of a Baraboo circus legend.

The show’s creators say William Dickey was a teenager when the circus came to his hometown of Bristol, Virginia, in the early 1900s. He spent years trying to recreate that experience, using a pocketknife to whittle thousands of wooden circus animals, performers, customers and concessionaires.

His toy circus toured the world in 1923. Dickey later sought a permanent home for it, but was not able to find one before his death in 1972.

Dickey’s family inherited the massive collection, which is valued at more than $100,000, and took over his search for a venue to display it. They ultimately connected with Al. Ringling Mansion owner Joe Colossa, and agreed to loan him the exhibit.

In the fall of 2017, Dickey’s circus was transported from Virginia to Wisconsin, and set up at the Baraboo mansion for the filming of the show that airs tonight.

“We are so honored to have this,” Colossa said. “Mr. Dickey worked really hard carving that circus, almost his whole life, and he’s finally getting some recognition for it.”

The display has been taken down since the episode was filmed in October. Colossa said he hopes it can be reassembled in the mansion’s basement in five years, after an agreement allowing the Baraboo Elks Club access to that space expires.

Colby, the host of the FBN show, said she was fortunate to see the display — which covers the area of a tennis court — assembled in all its glory. She also relished the experience of being with Dickey’s daughter-in-law, Barbara Dickey, and her children when they saw it put together for the first time.

Colby said she hopes young people who have never experienced the Big Top in person can get a feel for it through the Virginia man’s painstaking work.

“Once Dickey mastered the people and animals, he experimented with metal building cages and fences making for a more complete and realistic circus experience,” Colby said. “These were so realistic I just couldn’t believe it.”

The episode, titled “Little Big Top,” airs at 8 p.m. Monday on the Fox Business Network.