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10 Amazing Circus Families


6
The Hodginis
Tom and Betty Hodgini retired to Peru, Indiana and started a circus to train local children. It's become a big attraction in its own right (not shown). Frank Herholdt/Getty Images
Tom and Betty Hodgini retired to Peru, Indiana and started a circus to train local children. It's become a big attraction in its own right (not shown). Frank Herholdt/Getty Images

"The Great Hodges" doesn't really have a ring to it. Especially if you're a performer. Which is probably why a promoter changed this English surname to the more exotic "Hodgini" sometime in the late 19th century. The family genealogy isn't easy to trace, but this much we know: The Hodginis have been talented performers for 350 years, beginning in Europe and then coming to America. Albert Hodgini, for example, was a bareback rider and horse trainer with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where he also appeared in drag as a character named Miss Daisy. His kids Harriet and Albert were also great with horses; Harriet somersaulted and busted dance moves while on horseback. Other extended family members were aerialists and tightrope walkers. Everyone performed for all of the major circuses of the day [sources: Grossman, Heise].

And the show still goes on. Tom and Betty Hodgini of Peru, Indiana, retired from performing in 1956, after 27 years. Then local businessmen talked them into training some of the town kids to put on a mini circus show. That was the start of today's Peru Amateur Circus, where 200 kids annually put on 10 performances in Peru every July before tens of thousands of appreciative spectators. Many alums have gone on to professional circus careers [sources: Grossman, Peru Amateur Circus].