The Man Behind The Greatest Show on Earth


ringling brothers and barnum & bailey mural
ringling brothers and barnum & bailey mural

In the land of Dorothy and Toto, the fictional wizard’s booming voice and demanding ways was just a front for a Carnival showman, who really just landed in Oz by way of balloon from the Kansas State Fair. The Wizard of Oz character, also played as Professor Marvel, showed Dorothy, the Tinman, the Lion, and the Scarecrow that all the virtues that they wanted were already in their possession. He taught them and us to just look inside ourselves to find courage, heart, intellect and adventure.

Kenneth Feld, the owner of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is the modern day wizard. A transformation happens to the reserved, unassuming businessman, when in the company of children or on the floor of the 3 ring circus. Mr. Feld’s voice lifts and stories flow while the excitement begins to build.

While I was assigned to do his grooming for an upcoming story and photo for the Virginia magazine’s August issue, we had the pleasure of experiencing the behind-the-scenes of the circus life. Proud of his family photos and willingly walking us through the history of The Greatest Show on Earth, Mr. Feld showcased the beautiful costume illustrations, Disney inspired castles from the ice shows, and bronze sculptures of gorilla hands as if it was the first time he had shared them. Then, we listened closely to his memorable stories from childhood as he took us back to the day he was lost at the National Zoo at the tender age of 5. “After 4:30, lost children will be taken to the lion’s house” read the plaque reserved in first position though shared last. Imagine the horror of seeing Lion’s teeth through the bars of the lion’s den. Imagine being a kindergartener in search of your parents. In a way, he survived the adventure in the Zoo the way Dorothy did through Oz. The now older Feld is like the wizard, who landed in the family circus business and imparts great wonder for “children of all ages” to explore and discover about themselves through others.

Hopefully, Mr. Feld will write a book about his adventures for us to explore. Check the link below to see when the circus is coming to your town.


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