The Suburbanite
  • Postcard from ... Massillon: Miniature circus is popular display at museum

  • A big top has been placed over the little circus displayed at Massillon Museum.

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  • A big top has been placed over the little circus displayed at Massillon Museum.
    The clear, acrylic bubble covering the recently cleaned and restored Immel Circus display, protects the miniature three-ring circus from dust and other destructive elements. It also allows museum visitors to better view the tiny world that includes tents, animals, performers and circus workers.
    The dome, paid for through visitor donations and community contributions, preserves for future generations the pieces that Robert Immel carved between 1946 and 1995 using tools from his Massillon dental practice.
    “The 100-square-foot miniature circus contains more than 2,600 pieces,” notes text near the exhibit. “Dr. Immel donated the miniature circus to the Museum in 1995, along with more than 1,400 artifacts of circus-related memorabilia.”
    Some of those artifacts are displayed surrounding the Immel Circus. And on the wall leading to the room in which the miniature circus is exhibited, placards hawk the display with circus barker enthusiasm.
    “This Way to the Immel Circus! You Won’t Believe Your Eyes!”
    Indeed, it is difficult to comprehend the creative talent that Immel possessed. He carved most of the pieces, save for a few that were hand-crafted by friends and retired circus performers. Much of the circus is wood, but some items are metal and plastic.
    According to text accompanying the exhibit, his inspiration came from attending circus performances with his uncle.
    “I was at the age when you’d learn everything and love it,” Immel once said. “Elephants were big, and it was great to look up at them. It was quite a thrill.”
    Immel’s portrayal of a circus was a thrill for his young patients to see. The dentist kept it in the basement of the building housing his practice. Many a child descended into this tiny world after completing their dental care.
    “I have tried to make the appearance of the circus look like it is actually in motion,” Immel once said in explanation of his carvings. “As if everybody was doing something and someone said ‘Hold it!” and everybody stopped.”
    Circus animals perform under the big top. Workers pound stakes to erect tents. Wagons haul the various equipment needed to put on a circus. Animals graze on the grounds on which this memorable miniature event is taking place.
    It never started out to be such a large event, Immel once admitted — certainly not a lifetime experience. “Everyone should have a hobby,” explained Immel, who died in 2008. But an entire circus?
    “I didn’t start out to do it.”

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