Campbell Brothers Circus Display opening this weekend at Fairbury City Museum

FAIRBURY – The Fairbury City Museum is set to unveil its newest display on Sunday, Apr. 14.

The “Campbell Bros. Circus Display” will be ready for public view on Sunday, with an unveiling event scheduled from 1-4 p.m.

“We’re teaming up with the (Fairbury Chamber of Commerce),” city museum president Mick Suey said. “Schilling Bridge Winery (of Pawnee City) is bringing back one of their original wines called ‘Forever Venus,’ which was named after an elephant that died in a train accident (in 1904). The animals that died were buried right there – where the winery is now.”

Campbell Brothers Circus was the second biggest circus in the world, and winter-quartered in Fairbury from 1885-1913.

“Usually in April, which is kind of why we decided on this month, is when it would start to go out on tour,” Suey said. “Usually, they’d have a parade in downtown Fairbury, and then it’d get on the train and start traveling.”

The City Museum used to have a display dedicated to the circus, but Suey said the museum board wanted to make it more prominent by acquiring more items.

Sunday’s grand opening caps off nearly two years of work, including transforming the display room to make it look like the inside of a circus tent.

“It used to be in the hall, but we thought it needed to be more prominently displayed,” Suey explained. “There’s a lot of pictures and some different items. A sledge hammer they used to drive stakes into the ground. There are a couple dresses that are very old in display cases. We’re still in the process of getting a story line going. Curator Paren Sims knows more about the circus than anyone.”

Sims was unavailable for comment Friday, but she’ll be at Sunday’s event.

“I know she’s chomping at the bit to tell everyone about,” Sims said. “We’re ready.”

In addition to the circus room, an 86-foot-long paper mural of the circus will be on display in the barn adjacent to the museum at 1128 Elm St.

The mural dates back to the early 1900s, and was originally located at 6th and D streets in Fairbury. It sat there until it was rediscovered in 2004. It sat covered up for a number of years until the museum decided to preserve and display it.

“We always try to do different exhibits,” Suey said. “Not only do we have the circus room, but we are in the process of creating the old jail which used to be in the basement of the courthouse. Some former police officers have donated some items, so we’re in the process of getting that up. We’re also working on a war room. That’s one project I’m looking forward to working on myself.”

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