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© 2005-2021
Jan Bender

Bender Melodies

Frequently Asked Questions...
Events and Booking

•What kinds of outdoor events are appropriate for Bender’s Circus Calliope?

Large public events such as town or county fairs, 4-H fairs, or amusement parks are ideal. Events such as a gala opening of a shopping center or business also work. The audience walks around the grounds and the music from the calliope provides festive background ambiance. These are events with many activities, and people visit the calliope, listen, learn a little about it, and move on to other things that interest them. Families with small children frequently come back for a second or third visit. Less advisable are events such as craft and art fairs during which the crafters are stationary for 2 or 3 days and are carrying on sales conversations with visitors.

Knoebels Amusement Park
Our calliope provided some of "the happiest music on Earth" for two full days at Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, PA. Knoebels hosted a musical rally in June 2016 and again in 2018. Members of the Carousel Organ Association (COAA) from all over the USA brought over 20 large band organs and calliopes, and organ grinders with more than 30 smaller crank organs strolled the grounds and organized several "concert" demonstrations.

Carousel Organ Association members played calliopes, band organs, and crank organs at Shupps Grove near Adamstown, PA, where people were looking for antiques and collectibles in the shady grove.

Audience St. Joseph, Mich.
Visitors to the band organ rally on the bluff over Lake Michigan in St. Joseph, Michigan listen to the calliope music.

What about night performances?

As you can see in the picture below, the calliope trailer has decorative lights outside and floodlights inside. It is quite the attention getter at night.

In Leesburg, VA
We used a slightly different set up —one side closed and some posters inside —for Leesburg's "First Night".

•What if it rains?

Our calliope can provide happy music even if it rains, but we will have to modify the set up depending on the actual circumstances. For the event pictured above, we were able to set up before the light rain started. In light rain, we use our red umbrellas so that we can still be out in front and are able to talk with people about the calliope and its music. In heavier rain, we open one side, so the music can still be heard easily, but we drop a clear plastic curtain for protection, and we do not hang the striped drapes and outside posters. We cannot park on grass, of course.

•What geographic area do you travel in?

For one-day events we can easily travel to Washington D.C. and in about a 2 hour radius of Washington into Virginia and Maryland. As a practical matter, a multi-day event in this same area allows us to return home in the evening, keeping costs reasonable. As you can see from the photos, we have occasionally taken the calliope much farther (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa) to participate in the educational events sponsored by the Carousel Organ Association or the Musical Box Society. We would consider an event in mid-Atlantic states a few hours drive from northern Virginia, but would need to discuss with you the additional fees we would need to charge to cover our expenses.

Muscatine, IA The Carousel Organ Association (COAA) Band Organ Rally in Muscatine, Iowa was set in beautiful Weed Park. Many residents of Muscatine shared with us their memories of Norman Baker, his Tangley Calliaphones, and his various other enterprises.
At Knoebel’s Amusement Park in Pennsylvania for the Carousel Organ Association Rally in 2010, we were positioned near the replica of the Iwo Jima Memorial . At Knoebels Park

•What does the event planner need to consider in choosing a spot for the calliope?

We need to be placed away from amplified music. If your event has continuous music over loudspeakers or live amplified bands, it is not fair to us or to them to place us in competition.

We need a flat, dry, hard surface to pull the trailer in. We can pull onto grass if the ground is firm. Access for pulling in and out needs to be considered (we are musicians not highly skilled truck drivers), and visitors, including those with strollers or small children in tow, need to be able to walk up to the calliope.

People view calliope

People often take time to read the historical information cards and
look at the reproductions of old circus posters on the lower display panels of the trailer.

•What are the electrical requirements?

We have a relatively quiet Honda generator that produces adequate power. The calliope runs on normal household electricity (but not a GFI circuit) and can be plugged in with our heavy duty power cord. However, a long cord run or power shared with, for example, an amusement park ride, will cause a voltage drop that results in malfunction and possible damage to the calliope. We monitor voltage with a meter. If adequate “shore power” is not available, we must use our generator and will add a fee for its fuel.

McLean, VA Centennial
Centennial Celebration - McLean Virginia

•How much does it cost to book the calliope for an event?

The final total cost is based on a number of factors that are different for each venue. We start with our minimum base fee and calculate any additional fees depending on the number of hours per day, the number of days desired, mileage, and the use of the generator. We can give you a specific price when we know exactly what you are requesting.

calliope keyboard

•What about a signed Performance Agreement?

We have a Performance Agreement form that sets out details and requirements both for the event venue and for us. Putting these details in writing helps avoid misunderstandings. In this computer age, we can easily individualize the terms, if necessary.

•How does booking the calliope work?

You may e-mail us [ ] or call [703-430-9566] to check on the availability of the date(s) you have in mind. If we are available, we will then need to talk with you over the phone to determine exactly what you want. We will then work out a final price and let you know. If the dates and price are acceptable, we will send you a Performance Agreement. The terms are pretty standard for this type of entertainment, but you will want to read the Agreement form carefully. When all terms are acceptable (we can work out any changes), you sign one copy and return it with a check for the indicated deposit. The balance of the fee is due when we finish our performance.

•Can you accommodate a special needs audience?

The photo below shows our calliope set up for a special needs audience. Although a seated audience is not ideal, we modified our usual performance to accommodate this group. Since mobility was a problem for many in our audience, we stopped the music periodically and used our portable audio sound system to tell them about our calliope and the American calliope tradition.

Bender's Circus Calliope awaits the residents of a Sunrise Senior Living facility. They were treated to ice cream sundaes as they listened to the music. Our visit was special for one woman who recalled her days playing a steam calliope on a boat on the Mississippi River!


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Bender Melodies Organ Grinder Just Friends













Domingo Mancuello of York, PA, took his turn playing our calliope for a brief demonstration at Knoebels Amusement Park, Elysburg, PA in June 2021



What is a Band Organ Rally?

Bender's Circus Calliope is occasionally taken to a Band Organ Rally. Band organ rallies are special events organized by the Carousel Organ Association of America, or by a chapter of the Musical Box Society International. They are intended to showcase all outdoor instruments including band organs, calliopes, fairground organs, Dutch street organs, and smaller hand cranked organs.

Organizers may have as many as 40 organs of various types registered to play at a rally. The instruments often spread over a sizeable area of a town. Rallies last 2 or 3 days and are open to the public at no charge. Most of the costs are born by the people who own the instruments as a way to contribute to the educational goals of the non-profit organizations.

Electrical Box

Electrical power for the calliope and band organs at the rally in St. Joseph, Michigan was provided with this set up. it worked very well. There was no voltage drop as organs were added, even with long cord runs.



Lawrence McGowan wanted to take his turn playing our calliope at Knoebel's Amusement Park in Pennsylvania, June 2018.




At the 2012 Carousel Organ Association Rally at Knoebels Amusement Park in Pennsylbania, two organists took brief turns at playing the calliope.

Don Kinnier
Lititz, PA

John Moyer
Harrisburg, PA

Myron Duffield
Myron J. B. Duffield of Middleport, Ohio, bills himself as the “Calliope King of the World”. He specializes in playing music in “calliope style”. In his quest to play every surviving calliope in the world, ours was #77.