Recollections of the Big Top
By Bridget Manley
Reprinted with permission from the Craig CO Daily Press
The air inside the tent was sultry Tuesday afternoon with the mingled aromas of cotton candy and popcorn.
The crowd watched, entranced, as two acrobats nimbly walked the tightrope while a third performer slowly lifted herself into a handstand on a bar between them.
The Carson and Barnes Circus was in full swing at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.
Among the 100 or so people who came to the big top was Jeff Schlim of Craig, with wife Stacy and their daughters, Ema, 7, and Taryn, 4, in tow.
For Schlim, the big top event evoked memories from his own childhood.
“I can remember doing this when I was a kid,” said Schlim, 35, moments before the lights in tent dimmed and the show began. “It was pretty exciting.”
His most vivid recollection seeing the exotic animals, especially the lions and tigers, the show brought to town, he said.
Carson and Barnes Circus travels to more than 200 towns every season, most of them populated by less than 30,000 people, the circus reported in a news release.
Craig was one of the circus’ many scheduled stops in an itinerary that also includes Steamboat Springs, Kremmling and Meeker.
The show’s attractions weren’t limited to the tent that dominated the fairgrounds Tuesday.
Pony rides and a tyke-sized train awaited children outside the big top, while a donkey, llamas and other animals clamored for attention in a small petting zoo nearby.
Trevor Forbes, 5, and his sister Felicity, 3, both of Hamilton, fed goat kids small handfuls of grain from paper cups their mother, Melissa Forbes, got for them at a nearby stand.
She, too, recalled seeing the circus when she was a child. Riding an elephant and seeing trapeze artists stood out most clearly in her mind, she said.
Trevor and Felicity had never been to a circus before, but they knew exactly what they wanted to do once they got there.
“They wanted to ride the elephants,” Forbes said, laughing.
Fortunately for them, a few obliging pachyderms were on hand Tuesday to fulfill their wish.
Forbes’ children, she said, “were pretty excited.”