Cory Franklin

America's State Fair Impresario

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Born in poverty in 19th century New York City, Mike Barnes rose to become America’s premiere 20th century American show fair impresario, who embodied the Irving Berlin lyric, “There’s no business like show business.” For four decades, he presented dramatic spectacles worthy of Cecil B. DeMille, musical and dancing revues that rivaled anything by Busby Berkeley, animal acts, daredevil wing walkers, human cannonballs, flagpole sitters and auto demolitions. He assembled and directed these acts, entertaining millions across the United States, even during times of depression and world war. His influence on outdoor lighting and sound system presentation is still felt today in 21st century outdoor performances. Besides a snapshot of midcentury America, America’s State Fair Impresario:The Life & Times of Mike Barnes is the story of a modest man who was a brilliant showman, shrewd businessman, philanthropist, and exemplary family man. In short, a legendary American.
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207 printed pages
Original publication
Lyons Press



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