The Evolution of the Circus Tent and Temporary Venues

The Evolution of the Circus Tent and Temporary Venues

The roots of the tenting industry arguably lie back hundreds of years, and it’s always interesting to look at how temporary tented venues came to be part of today’s culture. One of the best ways to dive into our current use of tents is to study the evolution of the circus tent. It was 1793 when multi-act travelling circuses first appeared in North America, and at the beginning they were created using wooden arenas that were built in each city. This was the norm until 1825 when the first canvas circus tent was used to make the process of setting up and tearing down in each city much easier and more cost effective. A single 15-20′ pole was used at these first tented events, but eventually the tents were improved by adding quarter poles which were inserted between the side walls and centre pole to ensure all patrons had a clear view of the show.

The circus tent continued to grow larger and larger, and the term “big top” was adopted after P.T. Barnum began promoting his “Greatest Show on Earth” which reached more audiences than ever with the introduction of train transportation to move around the ever growing tents. His show was loaded onto 65 railroad cars and would travel 100 miles or more in a single night. This type of show became the standard in America as the Ringling Brothers joined the circus game, and as their popularity grew, so did their tents!

Circus tents were some of the very first temporary event venues to exist, and over the past several hundred years the tent industry has continued to grow, expand and break records. Whether it’s creating Olympic venues (as Regal did for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver), outdoor festivals, concert venues, corporate function spaces, homes for charity galas, or a simple (or not so simple!) wedding venue, there is a tent for every event imaginable. These now include unique temporary structures that require the same permitting as permanent buildings!

Regal Tent owns some of the most unique tents available in Canada including our double decker tent, our 60m wide Clearspan structure (yup, it’s as big as two football fields side by side!), and our Starshade tents to name just a few. Check out the photos below, and click here to reach out for more information about what kind of interesting tent options we have for your next event!



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