Circus brings ‘great family fun’ to Cove

Killeen Daily Herald
Friday, March 20, 2015

A massive, big-top tent and the trumpeting of elephants was all that was needed to announce the arrival of the Carson & Barnes Circus to Copperas Cove last weekend, a family-friendly show that brought in crowds from across the Greater Fort Hood region.

Perhaps one of the things that made the show so great for “The City built for Family Living,” however, is the fact the performers could easily fit into the Cove community because they live by the same values.

“Our animals are just as much a part of our family as the performers are,” said manager Kristin Parra, a fourth-generation circus performer who grew up in the circus and whose grandparents started Carson & Barnes in the 1930s. “Each of our animals has a single handler that gets to know the animal individually, working with them for years.”

Growing up in the circus was a lot of fun, even if it could get monotonous at times, said Ringmaster Gairo Ojeda, a 24-year-old fifth-generation performer.

“You get up early, set up, practice, perform two shows, then tear everything down and get ready to go to the next town,” said Ojeda, who is related to Mexico’s Campa Family Clowns on his mother’s side. “But it’s amazing — I’ve been to so many places, every state in the U.S. Sometimes we are fascinated by city people — in the circus we often say we’re going to run off and join the city.”

Children growing up in the circus are home-schooled or attend correspondence schools.

And even though they begin learning the “family trade” at an early age, such as aerial arts or training the animals, they are always encouraged to not only complete their high school diploma but continue on and get a college degree, Ojeda said.

“We always try to get the children to go to college and become a professional, such as a doctor,” Ojeda said. “But the applause is very addicting. You go in, start working the crowd, and it’s a mood booster. It’s why most of us don’t leave the circus.”

Fortunately for performers like Ojeda, who was raised on the trapeze, the kids aren’t required to follow in their parent’s footsteps. Which is how Ojeda was able to learn the skills of a ringmaster.

“I’ve been on many trapeze, but it wasn’t my thing. Ringmaster was a perfect fit,” he said. “I really enjoy it too much — but I am going to try and get back into school and earn a college degree.”

Circus performers strive to keep their shows as family-friendly entertainment, so anyone from 1 to 101 can enjoy it, added Ojeda.

“We try to keep the soul of the circus alive, such as having a ringmaster blowing the whistle to signal the next performance,” he said. “We’re one of the few businesses left who are less concerned about filling seats than we are about wanting to see people enjoy the show.”

And by the reception they received in Cove, it was quite a show. While they may not have remembered it, the show was the second time 4-year-old Logan Rewerts and his 3-year-old sister Taylor had seen Carson & Barnes perform.

“It was great family fun, and it got us out of the house and enjoying the weather,” said their father, Tyson, a Killeen resident stationed at Fort Hood. “We saw this show about three years ago, when she was just a baby and he was a year old. Now that they are older, they can enjoy it more.”

The best part? Well, for Taylor it was the fairies. Her brother preferred riding the elephant and watching the motorcycles.

“This is our 79th year as a family-owned circus,” said Parra. “We don’t have a rating — this is just good, clean, family fun that everyone can enjoy.”

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