Most circuses — whether large and famous like Ringling Bros., and Barnum & Bailey, or small and regional — are traveling ones, and set up a big Big Top tent to perform in. But not this circus. It is traveling, but there is no Big Top tent involved!

By Peg Cameron Gill

Yes, this circus is a traveling one, but by traveling, we mean it’s floating down the Mississippi River on a handmade, ramshackle raft! Talk about a unique sight to see! 

The aptly named FLOTSAM! Circus troupe is traveling on a handmade raft 650 river miles from Minneapolis to St. Louis, giving more than 30 FREE performances along the way in different riverfront towns in five states. 

No, there aren’t any elephants they would sink the raft. But there is plenty of other big top-type entertainment to enjoy when you watch this one-of-a-kind water wonder. 

You’ll see marvelous musicians, lithe and limber circus artists and aerial acrobats, comedic clowns, and puppeteers performing. There might be magic tricks and sleight of hand, pantomime, and surprising skits. The troupe boasts a wide range of talents between them, so you never know!

FLOTSAMS! River Circus will be performing on Friday, Sept. 1 in Canton at Mississippi Park, just north of the boat ramp. Simply head to the river and look for the most unusual “boat” — that’s FLOTSAM! The show is kid-friendly, and the performances start at 6 PM and are generally wrapped up by 7:30 PM.

Be sure to bring blankets or lawn chairs to sit on, and get there early to secure a good spot.

Can’t make Canton? No worries. You can catch FLOTSAM! River Circus and all its floating fun on Sept. 3 in Hannibal, at a location TBA, or Sept. 4 in Louisiana at Riverfront Park. More performances  at more locations will be announced. You can check for updates here.

During the tour, the raft is the troupe’s mode of transit, its home, and its stage. In 2019 thousands came to see the group perform as it toured on Oregon’s Willamette River from Corvallis to Portland. FLOTSAM! followed that floating feat with tours of the waterways around Seattle in 2021, and the Sacramento River and San Francisco Bay in 2022. This summer it’s back on the water with its biggest tour yet six weeks on the Mississippi River from the Twin Cities to St. Louis!

 Get out and see the FLOTSAM! River Circus before it’s downstream for good. The performances are FREE, but donations keep the circus afloat — literally!

If you’d like to support its work, you can Venmo your donation to ‘rivercircus’, or click this Paypal link.

To read more about FLOTSAM!’s current “current” of conveyance — the mighty Mississippi — check out this article.