“Crime does not pay-but you will!” admonished the Kangaroo Court citation issued by deputized teenage girls who were instructed by Sheriff Two-Gun Thompson to arrest anyone who wasn’t properly attired in western wear.
Desert Circus Week
For one full week each spring, the whole town would be subject to the Kangaroo Court. Judge Leo Fields presided over the court, usual held on the grounds of the Desert Inn, where all those cited were duly convicted of the “revolting crimes” of not being decked out like a real cowboy in western regalia, or not wearing the proper Desert Circus badge (a get-out-of-jail free card) or just on general principle. Confinement to the stocks was at the court’s pleasure, but was easily avoided by paying the fine. The money collected was distributed to various local charities.
The Desert Circus started during the depths of the Depression in 1934 as a modest amusement for local residents and in an effort to raise funds for the community. The proceeds of the first and second years benefitted the Catholic and Community churches, respectively.
The humble beginnings of a parade and a few assorted children’s games grew over the next 50 years to require expansion of Cody Field (later known as the Field Club) and included horse shows, gymkhana, a steeplechase, pony express races, circus acts, boxing, children’s spoon and egg race, a Grand Parade down Palm Canyon past the entrance of the Desert Inn. The weeklong celebration culminated in the Big Top Ball, a fancy dinner dance at either the Racquet Club or the El Mirador Hotel. There were cash prizes for the games and horseplay, and for the best parade entry.
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