The Way Back: Cirque du Longhorn

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In 1906, the UT baseball team was in debt, so students created an event dubbed the Varsity Circus to raise money to get the baseball team out of the red and back on the field.

The circus was such a success that it became a biennial fundraising tradition and the social event of the season, and each Varsity Circus grew more elaborate than the last. In 1911, a parade and a queen-crowning ceremony were added to create a multi-day program. By 1921, the circus had evolved into quite the extravagant affair: About 5,000 people gathered at Clark Field, which was outfitted with 36 side shows. Acts included a Wild West show with “bronch busting and mule-kicking,” an elaborate re-enactment of the Battle of San Jacinto and Santa Anna’s surrender, a few strong-arm competitions by B-Hall residents, and many others that are now too politically incorrect to name.

The last Varsity Circus was held in 1925, and the following spring the Student Assembly Council voted to abolish the event, citing excessive usage of students’ time and the divisive queen’s race from the previous year.

Image courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

 

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