Bellvale Amateur Circus

The following article (dated approximately 1936) describes some of the people and activities involved in the famous Bellvale Circus. The circus was an annual event in Bellvale from 1930 into the late 1940's.

"Ray Phillips, general manager of the sixth annual amateur circus given under auspices of the Epworth League of the Bellvale Methodist church Friday and Saturday nights, suffered a fracture of his right arm an inch below the elbow when he fell from his horse as he clowned his way through the opening parade.

Putting on a show that had qualities of the professional in extent and perfection, Phillips observed the professional tradition even in those circumstances and his colleagues did likewise, so that no one in the huge audience was aware anything outside the scheduled program had occurred until Phillips returned to the show ground just at the end of the circus. Meantime he had been taken to Warwick Hospital where the fracture was reduced by Dr. George R. Gould.
The fall was part of the funny business planned to feature the parade. Phillips a skilled horseman, had managed it without injury during rehearsals and Friday night. But Saturday night he said he believed he struck on his elbow. It happened just in front of the platform. Scrambling to his feet, the injured clown grasped his horse's tail and got to the dresssing room while hundreds of voices and hands proclaimed delight with the opening event, and Edgar A. Houston, ringmaster, figuratively took the reins and carried the circus through without delay.
Phillips, as fourth vice president of the league, is in charge of all its social activities. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Phillips of Bellvale. The circus is an ambitious undertaking that grows in importance with each year.
The program was under the direction of Mrs. Margaret Meng. A juvenile show included Circus Song with impersonations, Dan Quackenbush, ringmaster; Carl Quackenbush, wild man; Bernice Quackenbush, lion tamer; Gloria Hendrickson, bareback rider; Margaret Schrumph, trapeze performer; Frederick Batz, strong man ; Jean Quackenbush, the fat lady; Kjell Pederson, acrobat; Francis Shafer; tightrope walker; Keith Mitzner and Robert Quackenbush, clowns.
The dancing horse was Margaret Meng and Marjorie Bradner; brainless wonder, George DeGraw, sextuplets, Frank DeGraw, doctor; Ralph DeGraw attendant, and ? kittens; barrel rolling act, Helen DeGraw and Bernice Quackenbush; backward man, Robert Houston and Arthur Quackenbush Jr.; boxing match, first bout, Ernest DeGraw and Robert Quackenbush, second bout, Earl Quackenbush and Keith Mitzner, impersonating famous boxers; ballet dancer, Dora Scott; mimics, Robert Houston and Kenneth Quackenbush; sword swallower, Ralph DeGraw; little headed woman, Thelma Quackenbush; acrobats, Margaret Meng, Marjorie Bradner, Robert and John Houston, Helen and Ralph DeGraw, Ruth, Marian, Irwin and Frank Quackenbush, Peggy Schrumph, Kjell Pederson, Evelyn Schaefer.
Also in the cast were Mysto, the mind reader, Frank DeGraw; fat and thin woman, umbrella act, Frank Quackenbush, John Houston; Betty Ward, tap dancing Friday night; trapeze acts, Margaret Meng, Robert and John Houston, Frank Quackenbush, Helen DeGraw, Marjorie Bradner, Peggy Schrumph, Evelyn Schaefer, beauty contest, impersonation of actresses, Ralph DeGraw, John and Robert Houston, Frank Quackenbush and Claud, three year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Quackenbush, who as Shirley Temple, won the prize.
Other performers were redheaded sheep dog, Dorothy Hendricksen; horse race, Kenneth Quackenbush on Lightening, the mule; George DeGraw substituting for Ray Phillips, on Omaha, an old horse which won by being slowest; Robert Houston on Queen, Arabian horse; Ray Buchanan on a polo pony. Mr. Buchanan was also a cowboy and led an ox in the parade and on exhibition Saturday night.
Clowns were Ray Phillips, Robert Moffit, Kenneth Quackenbush and George DeGraw; junior clowns, Bobby and Earl Quackenbush, Keith Mitzner and Ernest DeGraw;circus hands. Clayton and Junior Quackenbush, Marian DeGraw, Dudley, Marian,Ruth,Thelma and Helen Quackenbush.
First prize, which was five dollars went to A. Michael Meng of Canton, N.Y. for his dancing horse act. Edwin Purcell of New York City was the winner of the second prize, two dollars, with the ballet dancer and mimics. Third prize winner was Miss Helena Meng, of Canto for the umbrella act of the fat and thin women.
Judges in the Friday night beauty contest were Mrs. Frank Kane of Bellvale, William Crigar and Fred VanNess of Warwick. Judges Saturday night were George Demarest of Wisner, Miss Anna Burkhard of Brooklyn and Arthur Perry of Warwick. Both nights the prize winner was Claud Quackenbush, selected with his natural curly hair.
The circus band was made up of Dorothy Bradner, Fred Houston, Howard VanStrander and Kenneth and Frank Quackenbush." -article courtesy of Brad and Gail Phillips.


These are some of the people that starred in the Bellvale Circus*



Ouch!! That looks painful!


Bob Atton and Rich Quackenbush

The Kids Parade was a standard part of the circus.

Ken and Flo Quackenbush in "surrey with fringe on top"

What a good looking couple!


Ken Quackenbush on "Tony"


Corry with granddaughter Elizabeth and Thelma hamming it up!#9


poster#1A-courtesy of G+B Phillips
photos#1-5 courtesy of Charles+ Tavy Umhey
photos#6-8 courtesy of Doris Atton Humphrey
photo#9 courtesy of Corry VanDuynhoven