The Gainesville Community Circus began as a means to help pay off debt acquired by the Little Theater. By 1929 “talking” movies were the rage and crowds attended in mass. A. Morton Smith, editor of the Gainesville Daily Register and a member of the Little Theater group, convinced the other members to stage a circus. The goal was to raise enough money to pay off the debt.
“In May 1930 the Community Circus first performed to a sellout crowd at the Cooke County Fair in Gainesville.” American Legion members and dignitaries from Denton were very impressed and asked the circus to perform at the Denton County Fair the next year. This helped the group to pay off their debt, but the show was so popular that they decided to continue.
In 1932, performances were played before packed houses in Austin, Amarillo, Houston, Dallas, and Ft. Worth. By 1936, “the Gainesville Community Circus was known as one of the greatest shows in the nation.” Magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Reader’s Digest carried articles about the show. Major movie studios filmed newsreel footage of the performances. At one point, the William Morris Agency of New York tried unsuccessfully to book the circus for an extended East Coast Tour.
The circus shut down for a period of time during WWII because many of the performers joined the armed forces. Once the war ended and locals returned, the Gainesville Community Circus started again.
By 1952, Gainesville had become known as “Circus Town, U.S.A.” In 1954, a fire destroyed much of the equipment, but the circus continued for most of a decade. However, the circus was never able to fully recover from the fire. Television had become a preferred medium for entertainment. The crowds had thinned, and it just was not feasible to continue. The Gainesville Community Circus officially closed in 1958.