Jungle Jim’s International Market

Whenever I’m traveling through the mid-west I try to stop at Jungle Jim’s. In the past, I’ve said Jungle Jim’s was the greatest supermarket in America, but up until this spring I had only visited the Eastgate location. This year I visited the original Fairfield location… and I was not disappointed. Jungle Jim’s — no mater which location you choose — is the greatest supermarket in America.

James O. Bonaminio (Jungle Jim) started his business as a humble produce stand in 1971 in Hamilton, OH. Jim opened the Fairfield location in 1975, expanded to 19K sq. ft. in 1982, and added the trademark Zoo animal pond in ’83. By 2001 a monorail was added and the store expanded to over 284,000 sq. ft. — that’s roughly 5 football fields of food, beverages, and fun (source).

Nascar - Jungle Jim's

The big difference between the original Fairfield and newer Eastgate location (est. 2012) is their layouts — the Fairfield location feels like it evolved over time, which it did, and Eastgate feels like it was planned out ahead of time, which it was. Fairfield has more twists, turns and bottlenecks, and the Eastgate location is more rectangular. The amazing selection of food and beverages are the same. Both have plenty of safari-themed fiberglass animal attractions, and pop-culture themed displays — Fairfield has a NASCAR hanging over the Foodie entrance, an animatronic singing bear named Elvis, and a small yacht featuring the cast of Gilligan’s Island, to name a few.

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While Jungle Jim’s has plenty of vehicles and animals to amuse kids and adults alike, it’s the rare foods and beverages that keeps me coming back. Isles and isles of food from around the world — particularly candy, maybe the best candy selection in the world. Hundred’s of types of hot sauce. Hundred’s of types of soda-pop. Hundred’s of types of beer. All these crazy brands you’ve never heard of before. Yes, they have normal food too. They even have rows of health food! Imagine the selection of a Whole Foods, plus the most popular brands, plus an unbelievable selection of novelty food & drinks that would otherwise take a lifetime to find — all in one convenient location.

It’s Disneyland for your mouth!

Jim the Wizard of low prices and finer foods:
Wizard of Food

How many supermarkets have a tribute to Gillian’s Island?
Jungle Jim's Gilligan's Island Boat

The Massive Hot Sauce display:
Jungle Jim's Firetruck Hotsauce display

Jungle Jim’s has a massive selection of candy from all around the world. These Gummi Snails from Germany, and sour lemon candies from Japan were amongst my favorites.

Gummi escargot #schneck #lecker #candy #escargot

Sour Lemon Candy from Jungle Jim's

Elvis

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Info: Jungle Jim’s website.
Location: 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, OH 45014

Circus World in Baraboo Wisconsin

On June 12th, 2017, I found myself in Baraboo, Wisconsin looking for periodical cicadas, attempting to verify their existence in that city. I found no cicadas, but I did come across the Circus World museum/historic site. Driving past Circus World, it didn’t seem that compelling: the buildings were bland and seemed unexceptional.

Circus World in Baraboo WI

I parked across from the museum so I could inspect the trees in a park for cicadas — from that vantage point I could see into the grounds of the museum — I could see an elephant, a circus tent, and trains of circus wagons. That was enough to make me think “okay, that looks interesting, I’m here, I’m not finding any cicadas, I might as well go inside”.

Perceiving the value of something often requires a new perspective.

One hundred years ago circuses had a lot less competition — no Internet, no video anything, no radio, no plenitudes of delicious foods, no giant amusement parks, no touring rock, country or rap groups, no NASCAR, no air conditioning, or easy to obtain birth control. If you lived in a rural community 100 years ago, and the circus came to town, you went to the circus. You put down your hammer, gathered up your kin, and went to see “the greatest show on earth”.

Enter the circus tent, and you enter an alternate dimension. The circus represents a mirror world. Each ring, or circle (circus), is a mirror laid flat, in which a distorted & amplified view of the ordinary world appears. At the circus, ordinary animals, like dogs, horses & bears perform tricks; extra-ordinary animals from foreign lands, like monkeys, elephants, tigers & lions, appear in the flesh; mysterious humans of extreme dimensions, attributes and skills amaze unexperienced minds; clowns — representing everything an adult is not allowed to be: silly, playful, foolish, loud, colorful, outlandish — pour from tiny cars to delight child and adult alike.

I have to imagine this experience was quite healthy for the spirit, mind and even body. The circus comes to town and takes you away from the day to day grind of a difficult life; it makes you laugh; it shows you sights you might never otherwise see; it blows your mind. The circus picks you up in its primary colored arms, and shows you the truth of what the world is, and what it can be. It offers the gifts of joy and perspective. And maybe you can have an affair with the strongman or tattooed lady.

Clown - Circus World, Baraboo, WI

The modern world has few mysteries. The Internet offers millions of hours of footage of ordinary & rare animals performing tricks. Want to see an extremely tall man fly through the air? Just turn on ESPN. The “Tattooed Lady”? She’s your best friend. Adults behaving like clowns? They’re everywhere today (perhaps they always were). We have entered the mirror world.

Today we have no need for the Circus, because we have 24/7 access to the amazing & mysterious, silly & insane. As Madge would say “you’re soaking in it”. And because we’re inside it, we’ve lost some perspective.

So what about Circus World?

Considering Circus World as a whole, the bland exterior works perfectly. At that point, the visitor is outside the circus. Even the entrance to Circus World is unexceptional — a simple gift shop and ticket booth and bathrooms. But one step beyond these operational necessities, you enter the Circus World. Bright lighting and white walls, switch — in an instant — to shadow and spotlights illuminating circus scenes and artifacts: a maze of brightly-colored circus posters and banners; elaborate displays of mannequins (human & animal) donned in glittering circus attire. Visions of the circus, frozen in time. But it only gets better once you step outside.

Monkey Circus

Circus costumes for performers and elephants

Once outside, you have two options: 1) make a right and explore, what I’ve called the “bland” and “unexceptional” buildings, or 2) cross the river and enter the circus world. I chose to ease into it, and headed for the buildings.

Have you ever met someone who looked totally ordinary — plain clothes, common haircut, average physique — and have them tell just the most amazing story about their life? I have. Some people, and some things look ordinary, only to contain and protect what they hold inside. It turned out that the buildings visible from outside Circus World once held circus equipment and animals from every continent — while they appear ordinary and utilitarian, they were built to hold the heart of the circus itself. Today these buildings continue to house treasures — each is a museum to an aspect of the circus. One holds massive and detailed dioramas depicting circus performances and circus train yards. Another holds a museum of famous clowns and clown equipment. Another features the costumes of circus performers from around the world. Another has tributes to famous circus animals, like Silver King, the most famous circus horse of all time.

Giant Hammers used by Clowns

A model of the circus at Madison Square Garden

Back outside, and across the river, and you’ve entered the living circus. There you’ll see the circus tents, elephant, and horses, and performances by acrobats, clowns, and Ryan Holder and his magnificent family of captive bread Bengal-Siberian tigers (I pulled that last sentence from their website). The performances are so good, you’ll probably forget to take a photo like it did. Plenty of delicious carnival foods are available as well.

The circus wagons were my favorite exhibit at Circus World. The grounds of the museum feature dozens of of these ornately shaped, colored and decorated wooden wagons that once held glamorous circus performers, exotic animals, and yes, even clowns and equipment. Some wagons featured bars to allow folks to see the animals inside. Some contained complete, automated musical machines — steam-powered calliopes that played the loud, festive and other-worldly music of the circus. There are even buildings where the wagons are restored and repaired — it must take great skill to preserve and replicate the amazing carved woodwork of these wagons. Pure whites, blood reds, rich golds and silvers, fiery oranges, uncommon blues, and the occasional John Deer tractor green, gilded with gold, of course — the colors of these wagons stand out from the beiges and grays of the ordinary world.

Golden ornate circus wagon

Arthur Bros Circus Wagon

Link: circusworldbaraboo.org.

Location: 550 Water St, Baraboo, Wisconsin.

More Photos:

Circus World, Baraboo, WI