Instead of money or real estate, she received his ornately carved and hand-painted miniature model circus, which features more than 62,000 pieces that stretch the length of a full tennis court.
Dickey’s bequest caught the attention of the Fox Business reality show “Strange Inheritance,” which will air a new episode about her story Monday night.
About the show
Jamie Colby, the show’s host, said the idea for “Strange Inheritance” began to form four years ago, though the concept has evolved.
“All we really had (at first) was this really cool title, ‘Strange Inheritance.’ We didn’t really know what it would end up being, but what it’s become over a period of time is us seeking out families who have inherited either something really weird and strange or historically significant.”
Over the course of four seasons, Colby said, 100 episodes have been filmed across the country. Oftentimes, viewers will learn as much about the families as they do about the item itself, she said.
“It’s essentially a history show with a lot of personality.”
Colby said Dickey’s father-in-law, William Dickey, was a master craftsman. Using a pocketknife, he crafted the 62,157-piece model circus, complete with animals, circus workers, patrons and a big top tent featuring thousands of hand-built seats inside.
“It’s the most extraordinary thing to see,” Colby said. “Everything is built to scale, and this was his hobby. And when he passed, knowing how important that circus, which he called the Dickey Circus, was to him, (Barbara Dickey) vowed that she was going to find a place where people could see it.”
Colby said the circus pieces sat in boxes for decades, so Dickey’s children and grandchildren had never seen it set up “in all its glory.” Dickey wanted to change that, so she created a Facebook page with the goal of finding someone who was able to display such a large collection.
“They did get a response, and miraculously, the response they got was from a former circus performer … in Baraboo, Wisconsin, which is where the winter home of the Ringling Bros. Circus was,” Colby said. “This former circus worker from Ringling Bros. bought the mansion that belonged to Mr. Ringling, and he wanted to display the circus there as part of a museum he’s building. So it was really a match made in heaven.”
Colby said the show brought Dickey and the former circus performer together and arranged for the circus to be set up, so that Dickey’s children could see it for the first time.
“It was the most emotional thing I could imagine witnessing when they walked in and saw what their grandfather had created,” Colby said. “And for Barbara, this was like a bucket list item for her; she spent a lot of time trying to make it happen, and we were so happy to be a part of that and help facilitate it.”
Where to watch
Colby said the 30-minute episode will air nationally Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox Business Network.
To find out which channel the episode will air on in your area, visit www.foxbusiness.com/fbntv and enter your zip code.