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GIBSONTON: Legendary showman Ward Hall passes

Published on: September 13, 2018

A bit of everyday magic has gone out of this world — legendary showman, Ward Hall, passes away

Ward Hall, The King of the Sideshow, was a larger-than-life showman.

Legendary showman, Ward Hall, passed away at age 88 on Aug. 29, after a prolonged illness.

Born in Trenton, Neb. on June 21, 1930, Hall moved to Denver as a young teenager where he discovered The Billboard Magazine, and was immediately hooked, faithfully reading every week’s edition.

In 1946, he joined Daily Bros. Railroad Circus, where he started his show business education. Staying in the circus for three years, he performed in the sideshow, juggled, did wire-walking, worked a lion act, and most importantly, learned to pitch and make a bally, for which he would become most well-known for.

In 1950, he bought his first carnival sideshow with his partner Harry Leonard from Freer’s United Shows. Hall’s circus sideshow toured with many major carnivals: Cavalcade of Amusements, William T. Collins Shows, Rod Link’s World of Pleasure Shows, and many more covering the Midwest through the early 1960s. Hall and his partner then formed a show called the Pygmy Village.

In his career, Hall was connected with over 15 circuses such as Circus Vargas, Kelly Miller Circus, Toby Tyler Circus and many more.

For seven years he was partnered with Nate Eagles, producing the sideshow for the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden.

Hall moved to Gibsonton in 1966, and partnered with C.M. Christ to form a new company to produce a state fair sideshow for Gooding’s Million Dollar Midway, where they stayed for several years. The company continually grew to the point in the late 1970s where they had four state fair sideshows and eight grind shows with 70 employees. These shows played all the major fairs: The Ohio State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair, the Wisconsin State Fair and most of the major fairs east of the Mississippi.

Ward Hall ran across town and joined the circus for a part-time gig in 1944 when he was a kid living in Colorado. A year later, as a 15-year-old 10th grade dropout, he ran away for good, joining the Dailey Bros. Circus. He never looked back. By 16 he was performing in a sideshow and by age 21, he owned a sideshow.

Hall also produced a special show for R.B.B.B. Circus for special engagements and for two years at Circus World in Florida.

Hall wrote three books and wrote and produced three stage musicals. He produced a 2,500-seat tented theater show called Wondercade, appeared in four movies, and was featured on many television shows and documentaries.

Ward was president of the International Independent Showmen’s Association (I.I.S.A.) in 1974 and ’75 due to the unexpected passing of his predecessor. His President’s Banquet and Ball was the most elaborate and exciting of all time and is still talked about today.

He spent 14 years on the board of directors of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (O.A.B.A.) and was board member emeritus of the I.I.S.A.

Hall was inducted into the Circus Ring of Fame, the I.I.S.A. Hall of Fame and the O.A.B.A. Hall of Fame.

In 1981, Hall produced 12 shows for the Ohio State Fair when they made it a pay-one-price at the gate, and that year it jumped to being the number one attended fair in the nation. Also at this time, Hall operated two permanent wax museums on the seashore at resorts in New Jersey.

The showbiz bug bit Ward Hall hard while still in his teens. He was a ventriloquist, a magician, and finally a show owner – every step of the way, transforming the mundane into the magical.

Hall was a prolific storyteller, but one true story he never told anyone, as he felt they would not believe it, was that on April 22, 1994, he appeared in, was the MC for, and sang in a one-night show at Carnegie Hall called “Circus Blues.” He also made an appearance at Lincoln Center, and four trips to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington to produce shows for their spring celebration.

He was a member of the C.H.S., C.F.A., O.A.B.A., S.L.A. and I.I.S.A.

In semi-retirement the last few years, his show company was sold to Thomas Breen, who keeps the tradition alive today.

Ward Hall lived a full and happy life and passed away peacefully in his sleep.

He is survived by his partner of 53 years C.M. Christ.

There will be a Celebration of Life at the Showmen’s Club, at 6915 Riverview Dr., Riverview, FL 33578 in mid-November.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the I.I.S.A. Museum of the American Carnival.

 

 

Ward Hall kept sideshow traditions and the sideshow itself alive.

Farewell to a leader in the showmen’s industry — Ward Hall, 2018.

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