Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Marker Details

The marker is located at 200 E. Washington Street, Bloomington.
Dedication Date:
Dedication By:
The McLean County Museum of History, with support from Bloomington Stars Take Flight, Milner Library at Illinois State University, and the Illinois State Historical Society

Marker Description:

In the era before movies, television, and the Internet, it was the circus that entertained us. Traveling shows exposed circus goers throughout the U.S. and the world to different cultures and countries, as well as acrobatic and aerial feats. For more than 80 years, spanning the 1870s until the 1950s, countless numbers of brave Bloomington men and women risked their lives to entertain massive crowds by performing aerial tricks high up on the flying trapeze. Bloomington’s first gymnasium featured a flying trapeze by the 1870s. Members of that gymnasium, The Green Brothers, were touted as being as good as the professional athletes in circuses. Thus, the Flying Lavans was born. As their fame grew, more acts followed: the Fishers, the Aerial Smiths, and the Flying Wards, to name just a few. These, and hundreds of other aerialists, trained in the barn the Wards built on Emerson Street and in the Y.M.C.A. building. By the time the Y.M.C.A. was built at this site in 1907, the elite stars of the circus – the aerialists – called Bloomington home. Dozens of youths like Bert Doss, Wayne Larey, Eldred “Red” Sleeter, Art Concello and Harold “Tuffy” Genders took their first leap off the pedestal board on their way to stardom. Antoinette Comeau Concello achieved what many feared impossible for a woman: the triple somersault, often called “the killer trick.” History was made at this site. Little wonder why this city was once known as “The Trapeze Capital of the World.”


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