The Story Of The Circus Animal At The Fair’s Creative Activities Building

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) — If you’ve ever been into the Creative Activities building on the east side of the fair, you’ve likely noticed some large circus animals. Inside you’ll find a lion, elephant, camel and horse. The animals were meant to be on display for only a year. They’ve been there for more than four decades.

They are high above the bustling crowds inside the Creative Activities building.

“It’s sort of the character of the whole building,” Creative Activities Superintendent Curt Pederson said. “The camel used to be two feet taller but over the past 30 or 40 years I’m afraid the joints, the legs, are getting a little shaky.”

In the early 1970s for one extra credit, University of Minnesota design students were tasked with creating circus animals.
Terry Klepinski was one of them.

“It’s fun when I turn the corner in the building and there they are. They’re still there,” Terry Klepinski said. “So we had two days and he said, ‘Create circus animals,’ and that was it, and he walked away. And we just did it and it was so much fun, and it was really only intended to be for one year.”

Klepinski has pictures from the first year the animals were on display. At that time they were at ground level.
She’s still amazed that what the college students created in days have lasted.

“Being that they were really thrown together the fact that they’re holding up is really pretty amazing,” Klepinski said.

Pederson said the animals epitomize the focus of the building.

“Creative Activities is all about handcraft. What we started with were 2 x 4’s and chicken wire. They covered them with twine, pieces of leather like shammy and colored felt and they created what you see here,” Pederson said.

Over time, they’ve become a fair favorite.

“I’m curious how they made it past the first couple of years but as I say this is how so many things work becoming part of history,” Pederson said.

“I’m very proud of it I guess. I think it’s great that it’s a historical part of the fair,” Klepinski said.

There has been talk of retiring the circus animals. But Pederson said he constantly hears from people who love them. Last year they were cleaned in hopes of keeping them on display for years to come.

More from Jennifer Mayerle
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