Sunday, September 4, 2011

When the Circus Comes to Town

When the Circus Comes to Town

The Culpepper & Merriweather Circus rode into town bringing their updated blue and white striped Big Top, a host of performers, workers, kiddie amusements and of course an array of animals ranging from a braying donkey to the king of beasts!

This is small one-ring circus, the type that would travel from town to town in days past, riding in on the railroad, unloading and parading through town. Folks would watch in awe as lions, tigers and colorful performers made their way to the outskirts of town where in a matter of hours the big top would tower over the fields; a signal to all that the fun would soon begin.

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Today they arrive in a caravan of trucks and trailers still parading through town hauling ticket booths, trailers that will soon serve popcorn, soda and cotton candy, bounce houses and a small side show- Giant Snake- Live! Many hands are needed to erect the 3600 pound tent, driving a hundred stakes with 20 lb hammers. These are the strong men not featured in the show but critical to the success.

The kiddies lined up early eagerly awaiting the exciting acts that would soon be no more than a few feet away. Some took advantage of the pony rides, some the bounce house but all had that look of excitement, the type you can find only in a child's eyes.

Soon the circus sprang to live, music blared from speakers and the crew was in high gear. The townspeople filed in as they have for generations: moms and dads with kids in tow, grandparents and teens, circus fans of all ages, a thread that binds us all. Run to get the best seat in the house but don't forget: Get your bag of Popcorn! Peanuts here! Snow cones and Soda. Balloons and trinkets. Get your face painted like a tiger!

Let the Show Begin- The Big Cats. You are a mere few feet from the big cats, separated only by removable steel fencing. Some parents brought their children right up to ring-ill advised and they were quickly shooed back to their seats. Regardless of the safety precautions and the cats' apparently tame disposition, these are still wild animals. I have seen my house cat in action and he weighs only a few pounds with tiny, albeit sharp claws. Imagine the damage a three or four hundred pound cat can inflict.

What's a circus without clowns? Yes, those funny, sad and oft times scary clowns that have entertained us for ages, holding our interests and tickling our funny bones during set or costume changes.

The Performers
Jugglers, trapeze artists soaring through the air, the Whip Master, dancing dogs, unicyclists and the many others file in performing act after act of amazing feats.

If you believe the trapeze isn't really so high, contemplate jumping off the top of your six foot step ladder. Not so sure about that? Simone, beautiful ringmaster and trapeze artist, flies high in the air, swinging by her neck spinning in frantic circles. Later she soars faster and faster, toes almost touching the top of the tent and suddenly drops suspended by her ankles or perhaps with her neck resting on the bar held only by the strength of her shoulders.

You find yourself both amazed and afraid for her. You silently send up a pray for the guardian angels of the circus to hold her in the palm of their hands. You see, she works without a net.

As we watch transfixed, she is dangling by one foot from a small rope loop as she poses her body at a 90 degree angle. This is no six week circus school. This is an investment of a lifetime, someone who has grown up and developed skills exceeding most prime time athletes. This is a daughter of the circus.

Next time the circus comes to town make time to take your children. If your town or charitable organization does not sponsor the circus, bring the idea to your next aldermanic meeting, gather the presidents of your local Lions Club, Rotary or tourism board together to discuss the possibility of bringing one to your community. Contact the circus directly at to see how they can assist you or your organization.

I hope you are able to enjoy this simple type of circus, one that generations before came to know and love.

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