PHOTOS: The P. T. Barnum First Annual Birthday Celebration and Hat Contest in Bethel

Barnum's first birthday party was celebrated with outlandish hats, birthday cake, and a festive atmosphere.


The first annual birthday party for P. T. Barnum, was celebrated on the library lawn in Bethel, Connecticut, on Thursday, July 5, with a "Crazy-Beautiful-Awesome-Spectacular-Humbug-Hat-Contest," honoring Barnum's age of 202 years.

The festive event was organized by the Bethel Historical Society and local publisher, Seraphemera Books. 

Children and adults arrived wearing hand-made hat creations and even the statue  of Barnum wore a special birthday hat.

Pat Rist, president of the Bethel Historical Society, said the significance of the hat was simply that Barnum always wore a hat.

Marc Moorash, owner of Seraphemera Books, was the Master of Ceremonies and he donned his top hat for the occasion.

Juggler John Wisnieff from the Newtown Juggling and Circus Arts Club said he came to the event just to be part of it.  He performed his juggling act on the sidewalk.

Nancy Weston of Danbury wore her "Traditional Prairie Cajun Mardi Gras Hat" that she had for 20 years. "Not from New Orleans but from west of the Mississippi River," she said.   

"My Mom talked to me about big top circus tents so my dad picked the lampshade and I did all the painting," said Bethel resident Erin Lowenadler, age 8, about her red and white striped lampshade hat, with balloons flying above it.  Lowenalder won the "Most Creative" prize in the children's category.

David Lowenadler, Erin's dad, wore a hat made from a tomato cage, covered in copper wire that he had meticulously stripped of the outer coating. "This hat didn't cost me anything," he said.  He was inspired to make the hat and participate in the contest by the urging of his friend Wayne Ritter.  Lowenalder won the "Most Outlandish" prize in the adult category.

Wayne Ritter, a Bethel resident for 42 years, described his colorful hat. "King Barnum is holding a necklace that leads to a fountain of clowns that produces a circus."  Ritter won the "Most Creative" prize in the adult category.

There were top-hat-shaped cookies and cakes with candles, made by Bethel resident Ava Dawn Heydt, also co-owner of Seraphemera Books. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to celebrate Barnum's birthday of 202 years.

Pat Rist served the birthday cake with the help of David Gesualdi, the sculptor of the P. T. Barnum statue.

The hat contest winners were chosen in adult and children's categories. 


Adult Categories

Most Outlandish: David Lowenadler
Silliest: Sarah Jackson
Most Creative: Wayne Ritter

Children's Categories

Most Outlandish: Aiden Maxwell
Silliest: Rosi Acquefreda
Most Creative: Erin Lowenadler

Prizes were awarded. Pat Rist said each winner in the children's category received a $20 gift certificate and a child's P. T. Barnum book. Winners in the adult category received a $20 gift certificate and an adult P. T. Barnum book, along with an old Barnum post card from 1908.  All other participants received a medallion of their choice, depicting a Barnum house, Barnum statue or Barnum fountain.

Sandy Jossick Anderson July 08, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Congratulations to Erin Lowenadler and her Dad David Lowenadler! Loved both your hats and was even more impressed when i heard that you did not have to spend a dime... What a way to show people that you don't have to spend money to have a fantastic time... Cheers!


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