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A Night at the Circus

By: Jen Hunter

One of the greatest things about my “job” with Macaroni Kids, is that sometimes we get to trade tickets for ad space.  I was approached by Carson & Barnes Circus with this offer last week when they were coming to the area, and thought “Why not?”  I have always loved the circus, it takes us back to a simpler time and reminds us what it was like to be a kid.  And nothing beats seeing the circus through your own children’s eyes.  So I loaded up my 11 year old daughter and her friend, and we were off to the CIRCUS!

If you are anything like me, you see these discount circus coupons around town, and wonder, “what kind of circus could this be?”  Trust me, this is no fly by night operation.  This is the real deal, under the big top, fun!  Carson & Barnes has been traveling the country for 76 years and is a family owned affair.  The original started in Sarasota, Florida in 1937 and has grown into a spectacular performance.  When you first arrive, you find a carnival like atmosphere.  Carnival food, like funnel cake, hot dogs, and cotton candy.  Rides for small children and tents where you can pet various animals, like llamas, and mini donkeys.  You can also feed them.  Of course there are a couple of attractions that you won’t want to miss, mainly either riding the camels, or my favorite, the elephants. There are booths where you purchase “coupons.”  You will need them for different things.  Keep in mind, cash is the preferred method of payment here, so hit the ATM on the way.  I also recommend “upgrading” your ticket. If you got the General Admission, you are going to want to pay a little extra for better seats.  You can do this in a couple of places.  There is a ticket booth out front, or if you get in the big top area and see like I did that your seats aren’t ideal, you can buy tickets in there as well.  We chose to get “Preferred seating.”  These seats were only an extra $1 and offered us ring side stadium seats that were perfect!  There are other levels of seating that you can upgrade to as well.  Some seats have backs on them (which would have been wonderful), and there are even special box seats that are very close to the action in the ring.  Also, I should mention that this is not a stroller friendly area.  If you are bringing a little person (I left my toddler at home), be prepared to carry them, and hold them on your lap.  While waiting for the show to begin, you can buy snacks, and other fun stuff, like glowing swords.  All through out the performance, there are people walking around with popcorn, soda, and cotton candy, so there is no need to ever leave your seat and miss any action.

On to the show!  As I said, I really didn’t know what to expect when the show began.  I had spoken with the media director, and he assured me that this are world class performers.  The perfomers come from all over the world and do a variety of acts.  We started out with a Star Spangled Tribute to the USA, perfect for the Memorial Day weekend.  You get a preview of all the lovely ladies in their beautiful outfits, and the animals, and the performers yet to come.

First, I will tell you about all the acrobats and dare devils.  The first act was a dare devil act with a man on a motorcycle riding on a high wire above the ring.  A woman is also suspended underneath the wire and does all kinds of amazing tricks that brought on many “ooohs”, and “ahhhs.”  The action just rolled on from there!  Everything you would expect to see under the Big Top.  Aerial silks and balancing acts (which reminded my daughter of something you might see on America’s Got Talent).  High wire walkers, that nearly gave me a heart attack, as they walked precarioulsy above us.  Even doing a trick where the two men hold the woman high above them, and she does a hand stand.  Truly amazing athletes!  There were trapeze artists straight from Circus, Circus in Las Vegas.  Their act including some acrobatics done while blindfolded.  My daughter and her friend marveled at how much practice this must have taken.  One act in particular elicted many a groan from the audience.  A very flexible young man from South America.  He was able to bend and manipulate his body in variety of mind bending ways.  And when he popped his shoulder out of places to twist his arm around his body, the whole audience gasped in disbelief!  Many more unbelievable acts are included, but you will have to see them for yourself!  There are many “WHOA!” moments when you think that something scary is going to happen.

There of course were also many animal performers.  My daughter loves animals, so she enjoyed these in particular.  The Carson & Barnes Circus started in 1937 as literally, a “dog & pony” show, so of course, there was a “dog & pony show!”  A whole pack of talented little dogs, and one pony enter the ring to entertain and amaze. Everything from jumping through hoops, to dogs riding on the back of the pony.  One little dog, holding on to the poor horses mane for dear life as they circle the ring.  Coming around to a platform where the dog trades places with another little dog whose turn it is to ride.  The girls laughed and laughed at the dogs, and again, commented on how much training was needed to teach them these tricks.  Could our 3 family pets ever do anything like this?  Doubtful.  There was also a group of spectacular Appaloosa horses, in a tribute to our Native American beginnings. The elephants are the highlight of the animals though!  Three magnificent and majestic beasts, ridden by some lovely ladies dressed as cowgirls.  The elephants dance and do all sorts of tricks.  It was really a joy to see them.

The absolute best part of the show however, is Alex.  Alex is a clown, but not your typical white faced, big red nose, clown.  He reminded me more of something out of a Dr. Seuss book, or a Tim Burton movie.  Crazy pointed hair, purple lips, and slightly oversized clothes.  He was hysterical!!!  He has a uncanny knack for physical comedy.  Falls, and spills.  A segment where he interacts with an audience member in trying to give her a prize balloon after she (finally) successfully got a ring around his neck, was priceless.  Let’s just say, several balloons were popped in the process.  He juggles and does some amazing tricks with what I can best describe as a yo-yo (it is so much more than that).  His back and forth banter with the Ring Master was comic gold.  And his dancing to popular music with another, more traditional clown, had the audience howling with laughter.  My favorite though (and the girls with me as well), was when he was called in the “fill in” for the missing Trampoliny.  Trampoliny is supposedly an acrobat straight from Caesars Palace in Atlantic City, who spends his whole act in the bathroom and misses the performance.  The Ring Master calls on Alex to fill in, and what results is 10 minutes of physical comedy that had tears rolling down my cheeks.  Alex is not only funny, but quite the athlete.  The whole crowd was laughing and calling his name.  And isn’t that what it is all about?  Laughing until your sides hurt, and tears roll down your cheeks?