Saturday, August 13, 2016


(Copyright 2016 Susabelle Kelmer. All rights reserved.)

They say the Yarn Barn over in Mossville is an enchanted place. I think it’s a rather unenchanting place, myself, but then, I work there. Enchanting is full of princesses and ponies and everyone is happy and pretty and no one ever says a bad word. But when you work at a place, even a place like the Yarn Barn, you know its ugly backside.

And the Yarn Barn’s ugly backside is one Henrietta Jackson, owner and proprietor. Henrietta is older than dirt, but looks like she’s twenty five and drives a convertible. Some say she had herself dipped in formaldehyde before she turned 30, so she’d never get any older. I just think she’s a witch whose fountain of youth is over at the ‘Do or Dye Hair Salon, where Tammy, Amy, and the girls can make anyone look like someone they’re not. I’ve never been in the ‘Do or Dye, but I’ve heard the stories. Plenty of my high school classmates went there to get their hair done up for prom, and I’ve seen those pictures. None of them looked like themselves.

Makes me wonder what Henrietta Jackson would look like if she wasn’t going over to the ‘Do or Dye twice a week to get herself done up. As it was she had dandelion-yellow hair with chunks of purple and blue highlights that I’m sure she thought looked quite natural. And that was nothing compared to the time she showed up at the Yarn Barn with a beehive about ten feet tall, in a cobalt blue with a white streak up the front that looked like a giant spark coming off her forehead. It made me wonder what color her hair really was if you took off all the yellow and purple and blue. But the weirdest thing about Henrietta Jackson was what she wore. I’ve been working at the Yarn Barn for fifteen years, and every time I see her, she’s wearing plaid. She’s got plaid skirts and shorts and skorts and pants, and plaid jackets and shirts and scarves. She even has plaid shoes. I don’t know where you buy plaid shoes, but she has them.

And if she had plaid clothes and shoes, did she have a plaid house? I’d seen her house, it was over on Maple street, painted as yellow as her dandelion-yellow hair, with a blood-red door that made the house look like it was sticking out its tongue. The outside certainly wasn’t plaid. But the inside, maybe. There might have been a plaid couch and a plaid chair and plaid placemats on the table, and the refrigerator had to be plaid if the placemats were plaid. It would look ridiculous otherwise. And the bathroom had to be plaid, too, because how could the rest of the house be plaid and not the bathroom? Did they even sell plaid bathtubs?

Maybe there’s a store where all they sell is things made of plaid. All plaids of the rainbow, organized by main color, blue on one side, yellow on the other, green in the middle, red and purple on the corners, something like that. I could picture it, like an OCD dream.

Not that I knew anything about OCD, just because I was diagnosed when I was 11 years old. Mom said I had a preoccupation with colors and having them organized just so, because the greens couldn’t touch the reds. I just thought colors looked better separated, and I like rainbows. The doctor said I had OCD, just because my mother told him that I put all my clothes away in order of color, just like the rainbow. And I like to eat my food by color too. You can’t eat carrots before you eat mashed potatoes. Everyone knows white comes before orange.

In fact, it was easiest to eat when everything was the same color. Like all white food on Mondays, and red foods on Tuesdays. Much easier that way, no thinking about what order to eat the food in. I like orange day best, because it meant I could eat one white food with my orange food, just to mix it up. That’s because I can have Orange Roughie on orange day, even though it’s not orange and it’s not rough, it’s just fish. But it’s still orange, on account of its name. And besides, I like fish.

I like working at the Yarn Barn because it is organized by colors, too. In the corner where the fake flowers are, they are sorted by color, and put in bins all in a row. When I first started working at the Yarn Barn, Henrietta Jackson put me in charge of organizing. And I looked at that row of flowers, with the yellow flowers mixed in with the purple flowers, tainting my rainbow, and almost passed out. I didn’t do anything for three hours but put those flowers where they belonged, with the purples never touching the yellows. Everyone knows yellow isn’t next to purple! When I was finished with the flowers, I did the yarn, and the fabric, and then all the trims for the fabric. The next day I did the entire row of beads, which was easy except for those big mixed bags where they put all the colors in the same bag and shake ‘em up. It hurts my eyes to look at them, so I stay out of the bead row whenever I can. It’s almost worse than looking at clowns, with their costumes that don’t match anything and big red lips and orange hair.

Up at my checkout register I have all my notes on my bulletin board put up with clear plastic thumbtacks. Clear isn’t a color, so it doesn’t hurt to look at it, and when it gets mixed up with other things, it doesn’t hurt my eyes. I like clear, except for clothes. Because there are just some things you don’t want to see, you know? And I don’t like my clear backpack, either, the one that shows all my necessaries when I come to work. But Henrietta Jackson says no one can steal anything if they have a clear bag, so I carry my plastic backpack and hope no one notices that there are tampons in there the week I’m on my period.

This week at the Yarn Barn is our Christmas in July sale. Me and Henry Oaks had to go in the back and drag out all the board games and Christmas decorations and put them up in the window. Henry Oaks never wears plaid, thank goodness. Henry’s smart, he’s going to college and likes read me poetry. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to be married to smart Henry, but then I remember he uses big words I don’t understand, and it makes me mad. He said one time that Henrietta Jackson was “flippant,” which I thought was some sort of fish, but it turns out it’s an attitude. The way he said it made me sure I don’t ever want to be called flippant, so I am careful around Henry, because I like him and I want him to like me. He likes to say “someday all these naysayers will be sorry they doubted me.” I have no idea what that means, but he says it when he’s angry after school. And one day when I was mashing boxes out back, he said “what’s the clamor,” and I told him I didn’t have any shellfish, because you don’t eat shellfish unless it’s a Friday. The priest said so. He told me he thought I was maybe the funniest person he ever met, which made me giggle but I was totally serious about the clam thing anyway.

Henry said we should play Candyland at lunch. That was after we stacked up about a hundred Candyland games on the table. I’d rather play Operation, because I like the little plastic bones that don’t look anything like real bones, so they aren’t creepy at all. I know, I’ve seen real bones. When the hawk ate the bunny in the back yard when I was a kid, it left the bones and the fur, and it was the creepiest thing I ever saw. Our dog Blackie was barking and barking on the patio, but the hawk acted like he didn’t care at all. He just kept eating that bunny.

But Henrietta Jackson sashayed out in her plaid skirt and suit jacket with plaid pumps and told Henry Oaks and I to stop piddling around and get done with the Christmas in July stuff, that the bead shelves needed to be organized again, and to bring the red and green beads up front and put them by the window. I wish she hadn’t said that. I hate that bead row. It never does look right, and it hurts my eyes to look at it.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Lacey Terrell Photographs Culpepper-Merriweather

Despite the fact that I think she could have picked a better mud show to work with, this is an interesting article with some pretty pictures.

Interview with Culpepper & Merriweather Circus Photographer Lacey Terrell





Saturday, March 05, 2011

Kelly Miller Circus Route Schedule Online!

One of the few mud shows who publish their schedule online on their website...

Kelly Miller Circus

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Favorite Circus Blogs

While I may not be that great about keeping up to date with this blog, I have other blogs I read to keep up to date on circus. I should share them here for others to find and enjoy.

The Adventures of Steve and Ryan - Probably my favorite (and therefore the top of my list) from circus clown Steve Copeland about the adventures he is having in his life.  Most of his performing is done with Ryan Combs, and they are currently on tour with Kelly Miller circus.  I like his nearly daily posts that show us the good, bad, and ugly of mudshow life. 

Circus Diaries - from Casey McCoy Cainan and Ryan Easley (also known as Radar), this blog of big cat life is always entertaining.  Radar provides most of the posts.  The McCoy tigers are currently touring with Kelly Miller circus.

ShowMe Elephants - from Ryan Easley.  Not exactly about circus, but all about elephants, one of my favorite creatures on earth.  He posts there almost daily.

Circus Mom - Circus Mom Natalie Cainan shares her life as mom and dog wrangler and circus performer.  Natalie is currently touring with Culpepper & Merriweather Circus.

A Mudshow Season - from circus front-man and historian Ben Trumble.  I couldn't decide whether to put him on this list or not, as he is a bit of a whiner sometimes, and if you leave a comment that speaks ill of one of his former performers he won't publish it.  Since I believe in being open (and signing your name to your posts) I don't have any problem posting my feelings, and think he should be as open.  However, Ben knows some wonderful circus history and often posts about things I didn't know. His blogging is intermittent; once or twice a month is about all you can count on.

If you're on facebook, most of these people can be followed as well.  In addition, there is a circus historian, Jack Bryan, who has a group called "May All Your Days Be Circus Days."  He posts some amazing pictures and announces events that are occurring worldwide. 

Friday, February 11, 2011



Contact Phyllis Weiss or
Laura McCarthy
Musen Steinbach Weiss

High-res photos available upon request


With Presenting Sponsor Edward Jones, St. Louis’ One-ring Circus Performs All-new Show in Grand Center June 2 - 26

Tickets Go on Sale March 16

(ST. LOUIS / Feb. 10, 2011) In celebration of its 25th season, Circus Flora, St. Louis’ beloved, one-ring circus, announces its brand new show, Vagabond Adventures, June 2 through 26 under the air-conditioned, red-and-white, big top tent in Grand Center. Presented by Edward Jones, the show comes on the heels of Circus Flora’s triumph with the St. Louis Symphony in January.

Vagabond Adventures is set on the Floating Palace, a real circus venue that traveled up and down the Mississippi River before the Civil War. This majestic riverboat triggers a thrilling caper, picking up where the critically acclaimed Symphony performance left off. Vagabond Adventures reunites circus stars from the last quarter century such as the Flying Wallendas, the St. Louis Arches, the Flying Pages and everyone’s favorite clown, Giovanni ZoppĂ© as Nino, along with many exciting new acts, including the Olate Dogs’ amazing tricks and the Riding Donnert's spellbinding horsemanship.

Vagabond Adventures finds stowaways on board the Floating Palace, with dreams of becoming circus performers. From their lowly, discrete positions, they catch wind of a scheme that threatens the boat. Enthralled by the luscious Lottie Luppu, these unlikely heroes uncover her hidden identity – Lola Montes, a spy for a Spanish/Argentinean plot to commandeer the barge and abscond with it to Argentina. Through the stowaways’ heroic efforts, the Floating Palace is saved, escapes the treacherous waters of the Gulf of Mexico and returns to delight the audiences of St Louis – the largest city west of the Mississippi.

The always affordable, family-friendly Circus Flora takes place under the air-conditioned, red-and-white, big top tent in Grand Center, St. Louis’ arts and entertainment hub, adjacent to Powell Hall (corner of Grand Boulevard and Samuel Shepard Drive). Tickets go on sale March 16; group tickets are now available.

Show times are Tuesday through Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.; Sunday at 1 and 5:30 p.m.; and “Little Top Wednesday” at 10 a.m., a special one-hour show for smaller kids or the “kids at heart.” Tickets for Vagabond Adventures are $8 to $44 and go on sale March 16. Call 314-289-4040 or visit for tickets and more information. Tickets are also available at the Circus Flora Box Office in the Centene Center for the Arts & Education, 3547 Olive St. Group discounts are now available for groups of 20 or more.

Circus Flora announces "Vagabond Adventures!"

Circus Flora will return in June with a new production, "Vagabond Adventures," under the big top near Powell Symphony Hall in Grand Center.

Like the circus's recent collaboration with the St. Louis Symphony, the new show will be set on the legendary riverboat, the Floating Palace. Acts will include the Flying Wallendas, the St. Louis Arches, the Flying Pages, clown Giovanni Zoppe, the Olate Dogs and the Riding Donnerts.

"Vagabond Adventures" runs June 2 through 26.  Tickets go on sale March 16. For more information, call 314-289-4040 or go online to

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Step in the Fall

I have long held the belief that Cirque du Soleil is not Circus. They are fabulous performances, and I have never thought otherwise. Some of the shows are spectacular, if disconcerting. But they are not Circus, and I have always bristled when they try to describe themselves as such.

Now comes word that Laliberte and his "troupe of performers" will be producing a Michael Jackson-themed show. I find this distasteful on many levels, not the least of which is that Michael Jackson the man was not exactly an upstanding citizen. There were too many concerns about his emotional stability, his pedophilic interaction with children, and finally his death of a (possibly illegal) drug overdose. Not exactly someone I want to aspire to, and certainly not someone whose strange ways should continue to be idolized with "entertainment."

I think in the early days, Cirque was amazing. The history I've read shows an organization with a dream to provide intense, visually spectacular performances that took Circus a step further and showed the limits of the human body. Now, it just looks like they will do whatever makes a buck. No doubt millions of MJ fans will be buying very expensive tickets to these new Cirque productions (one is to be a traveling performance, the other on permanent location in Las Vegas).

I'll pass, thank you. Give me regular old Circus any day. I'm amazed enough by that.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


One of the people I've interviewed for my circus book is Doug Terranova. Doug is an animal trainer and exotic animal owner in Texas, whose animals have not only performed for commercials and children's movies, but also for circuses all over the country. Anyone who's watched a Barney movie has seen some of his animals (and he himself) in action. He is raising two daughters in the business, as well.

I had the great privilege and honor of spending time with Terranova in Baraboo, Wisconsin, a few summers ago, where he was working his elephants, ponies, and camels at Circus World Museum. It was there that I fell in love with elephants, and particularly a sweet bull named Kamba. Until my time there, I had never understood just how smart an elephant is, and how persuasive they can be when they want something. Kamba, and her companions Congo and Moxie, taught me an awful lot in a few short weeks. One thing I learned about elephants: they will never do anything they don't want to do.

Recently, Terranova surrendered his elephants to a local zoo. I do not know a whole lot of details, but last fall Kamba took a little walk in the country at a circus she was performing at, instead of going into her truck like she was supposed to. There was something more interesting for her to do, so she took a walk. She went to cross a street and a small SUV came around the corner, and you can imagine what happened next. Two elderly people had the crap scared out of them, one SUV door got a tusk-enhancement, and Kamba didn't feel the least bit guilty.

But the ensuing investigation by the USDA (the governmental body that regulates exotic animal performers) and an escalation of animal activists' interference, led to drastic measures. The elephants are now being safely cared for at a zoo.

This makes me sad, first of all, but it also makes me overwhelmingly angry. There are people who should find something better to do with themselves, and that includes animal activists in this country. I have seen elephant care closeup, and I can vouch for how loved and tended these animals are. I saw three spectacular, healthy, happy bulls frolicking in big yard. I saw three elephants with very distinct personalities, and likes and dislikes, who were happy to take whatever treat I offered them, from a crisp apple, cob of corn, or small watermelon. Never once, the whole time I was there, did I see anyone mistreat them in any way. Those elephants were practically loved like lapdogs.

PETA and their kind need to find another hobby. This is none of their business, and certainly, if they can raise the kind of funds they've been able to raise over the last 30 years or so, they can do something useful with that. Running people like Terranova out of their life's work is not a decent way to spend their time or their money. Aren't there enough starving children to be taken care of, intensely poor nations that need help with housing and food production, or Olympic hopefuls that need someone to fund their trainings to take the place of the misguided PETA people?

Angry. I'm just angry. There is not a lot I can do about any of this, but I can still be angry. Maybe someday, PETA (and others like them) will be exposed for the frauds they are.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Butterfly Circus

All I can say to this is wow. Twenty minutes of beauty. Smarmy message, but great beauty in this little film.

Especially from the owner of the circus, Mr. Mendez, played by Eduardo Verastegui. Yum.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Route Cards - May 14th and on

Cole Brothers

Salisbury MD May 13-14
Dover, MD May 15-17
Vineland, NJ May 18-19
Tannersville, PA May 20-21
Randolph, NJ May 22-23
Livingston, NJ May 24-25
Moosic, PA May 26-28
Wappingers Falls, NY May 29-31

Circus Vasquez
Salem, OR May 15-19
Tacoma, WA May 22-25
Salt Lake City, UT May 29-June 2

Circus Vargas
Simi Valley, CA May 13-18
Santa Barbara, CA May 21-15

Carson and Barnes
Beaumont, CA May 13-14
Perris, CA May 15-17
Hemet, CA May 18-19
Lancaster, CA May 20-21
Oxnard, CA May 22-25
Santa Maria, CA May 26-27
San Francisco, CA May 29031

Friday, April 17, 2009

Route Cards, April 17 and on

Mud Shows

Cole Brothers

April 18-19 - Wilson, NC
April 20-21 - Lynchburg, VA
April 22-23 - Harrisonburg, VA
May 2-3 - Winchester, VA

Carson and Barnes

April 17-26 - Del Mar, California

Kelly Miller

April 18 - Shelbyville, IL
April 19 - Marhsall, IL
April 20 - Clinton, IN
April 21 - Jasonville, IN
April 22 - Spencer, IN
April 23 - Odon, IN
April 24 - Oakland City, IN
April 25 - Tell City, IN
April 26 - Shoals, IN
April 27 - Brownstown, IN
April 28 - Madison, IN
April 29 - Rising Sun, IN
April 30 - Liberty, IN
May 1 - Osgood, IN

Zoppe Family Circus
April 17-19 - Ridgeland, MS
April 22-25 - Decatur, AL
May 14-16 - Overland Park, KS

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kelly Miller Circus, Festus, 4/13/09

Here are pictures from KM on April 13th. It was a lucky day, despite the rain!

Steve, Bob "Doodles" Kelmer, and Ryan

Steve, "Doodles" daughter Katie, and Ryan

A clown's best side.

In the ring.

In the ring.

The brightest concession trailer ever.

Hula Hoops

Hula Hoops

Prospector gag

Prospector gag

Prospector gag

Prospector gag

Raoul the Juggler

Raoul the Juggler

Tony the clown.

Sink gag.

Sink gag.

Sink Gag.

See more of Steve and Ryan at their blog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Backstage at Kelly Miller

That's one happy guy!

Had the extreme pleasure to join Steve Copeland backstage at Kelly Miller in Festus, Missouri last night. It was my little girl's seventh birthday, and she has loved circus and clowning since day one, so it was a great way to spend her birthday. I took a ton of pictures, which I'll put up shortly as I get them adjusted/resized for the Internets. We enjoyed the show thoroughly, from the first moment, from the greatest seats in the house. If we'd have been any closer, we'd have been sitting on the ring curb.

It's hard to pick a favorite from the show, but I enjoyed very much the better-than-mudshow quality of the clown gags, and the comic displays of "Tony" and his little poodle dressed in an Elephant suit. Cute, cute, cute bit, although I know it is common in Mexican circuses. "Tony" was also "Raul" who did the opening act, a juggling routine that was full of energy and a few surprises. Memorable moments also included the hula hoop girl (wow!) and the elephants, who were so huge and so close we could see their eyelashes. Armando Royale (animal trainer) looks like a good friend of mine, I figured out about halfway through the show. I liked how he worked with the elephants, he was very confident, and the elephants went through their paces with calm precision. Elephants are my favorite part of circus, for the most part (sorry, clowns!).

We had a GREAT time and this is a wonderful show. Yes, it was raining, and the back yard was a muddy mess of elephant prints and tire tracks, but the tent was sturdy and dry, and the small crowd was whooping it up during most of the acts. I spent enough money to more than make up for the free box seat tickets Steve got for us. And like most mud shows, the hard work of the performers and crew really make a difference in how a show runs. When they weren't helping to set up rigging for their performance, performers were doing face painting or helping with the different concessions. And after the show, I saw plenty of performers assisting in tear down, trash removal, and packing trailers for the next morning. It is truly a group effort on these small shows, and I am always impressed to see that kind of teamwork in action.

And, we ran into some local celebrities while we were there: Jessica Hentoff and clan were sitting behind us, enjoying the show as well.

You can check out Steve Copeland's daily circus blog for more day-to-day details of their travels with Kelly Miller. Fun read!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Route Cards March 31-April 12

If you don't see a circus listed that you want to know about, leave me a note in the comment section and I'll see what I can do. I'm focusing on Mudshows at the moment, but there is more info that I can share if you want it.

Kelly Miller

Redfield, AR Mar 31
Heber Springs, AR Apr 1
Ash Flat, AR Apr 2
Mt. Home, AR Apr 3-4
Ava, MO Apr 5
Houston, MO Apr 6
Potoso, MO Apr 9
Ironton, MO Apr 10

Cole Brothers

Ft. Mill, SC Mar 31
Wilmington, NC Apr 2-5
Havelock, NC Apr 6-7
Dudley, NC Apr 8-9
Greenville, NC Apr 10-11
Myrtle Beach, SC Apr 12-15

Carson and Barnes

Alamagordo, TX Apr 6
Phoenix, AZ Apr 10-12

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Route Cards March 23 and on

Route as I have found them:

Cole Brothers

Palm Coast FL March 23-24
Brunswick, GA Mar 25-26
Ladson, SC Mar 27-28
Wilmington NC April 2-5

Circus Vargus

Ontario CA now through Mar 19-30
Chino CA Apr 2-13

Hamid Circus

Harrisburg PA Mar 25-28
Wilkes-Barre Apr 13-18

Royal Hanneford

St. Charles MO Mar 25-29
Miami FL Mar 26-Apr 12

Kelly Miller

Bridgeport TX Mar 23
Royse City TX Mar 24
Athens TX Mar 25
Van TX Mar 26
Commerce TX 27
Hugo OK Mar 28
Idabel OK Mar 29
Murfreesboro AR Mar 30
Redfield AR Mar 31
Heber Springs AR Apr 1
Ash Flat AR Apr 2

Carson & Barnes

Irving TX Mar 23-24
Richardson TX Mar 25-26
Garland TX Mar 27-29
Bowie TX Mar 30
Brownwood TX Apr 1
Weatherford TX Apr 2
Allen TX Apr 3-5

Monday, March 09, 2009

RIP Alberto Zoppe 1922-2009

I had the amazing privilege and honor to shake this man's hand one time. It was at a performance of the Zoppe Family Circus at a local fair, sitting in the back with his lovely wife, watching his children perform in the family circus.

After the show, when I was talking to several of the performers, I was introduced to him, I was introduced to him.

To say he was a legend is an understatement. Father Zoppe ranks up there with the likes of the Wallendas. He was probably the greatest bareback rider that ever lived and worked in a circus. He appeared in at least one movie, and performed his entire life.

I have posted the PDF of Alberto's Eulogy, written by his lovely wife Sandy. You can see it here.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Circus Routes

I hope to bring you this information every two weeks. I will include what I find out, which is difficult because most circuses won't share their route cards. Most mud shows are just now getting underway, although some have already been out for a few weeks (Kelly Miller has been out for more than three at this point).

Ringling Red
Newark NJ Mar 5-8
E. Rutherford NJ Mar 11-15
Uniondale, NY Mar 18-22

Ringling Blue
Cincinnati, OH Mar 4-8
Columbus, SC Mar 12-15
Washington DC Mar 18-22

Ringling Gold
Puerto Rico Mar 4-15

Big Apple
Atlanta GA through Mar 7
Bridgewater, NH Mar 14-29

Green Bay, WI Mar 6-8
Hamburg, NY Mar 19-22
Toledo, OH Mar 19-22

Atlanta GA through Mar 8
Raleigh, NC Mar 11-15
Richmond, VA Mar 18-22

Cole Bros.
Deland Fl through Mar 15

Circus Vargas
Del Mar CA Mar 5-9

Hamburg PA Mar 12-15
Harrisburg PA Mar 25-28

Royal Hanneford
St. Joseph MO Mar 6-8
Columbus OH Mar 19-22

Monday, February 23, 2009

Touchy-Feely Circus

Because I have a soft spot for causes related to disability (I work with disabled persons in my day job), whenever I run across an article with this kind of feel-good to it, I can't help but share.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- An enormous Asian elephant stepped out from behind a big red curtain at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Atlanta, Georgia.
Eli Hummer, 3, gets to try out an oversized motorbike at the circus.

An audience of 20 pre-schoolers clapped and squealed as the elephant was handed a tiny harmonica and started playing.

But, instead of sitting far away in the stands, the children, all visually impaired, were just a few feet away from the action.

Among them was 3-year-old Eli Hummer.

"He doesn't see, so to learn about it, he has to touch it and be close to it," explained his mother, Martha Hummer.

She said being able to use the sense of smell, touch and sound helps her son understand the concept of a circus.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Steve and Ryan Do Kelly Miller

That just sounds incredibly dirty, doesn't it?

Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs are the clowns working for the Kelly Miller Circus this year. I had the pleasure of seeing Steve perform with Neal Skoy at the 40th Clown College Reunion in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in September 2008. They did the funniest Karate bit I've seen in a long time. I have nothing but respect for Steve's clowning. I have not had the pleasure of seeing Ryan perform, but I'm sure he's a class act all the way.

A bunch of us with ties to the circus community are excited to see such clowns getting a whole season's work. It is a huge change going from Big Bertha (Ringling) to a mud show, but each type of circus has its own value, and its own rewards.

Fortunately for all of us, Steve Copeland is a prolific blogger. He has started a blog just for his and Ryan's adventures with Kelly Miller. He blogs almost daily, and shares some pretty great background stuff on living on the circus. It's still the first week, but I'm enjoying it immensely. And in some cases, the comments to his posts are more entertaining and informative than the posts themselves!

I hope you'll go over and check it out.

Kelly Miller Back on the Road/The Death of Circus Chimera

Kelly Miller Circus, now in its second year of ownership by John Ringling North II, has embarked on its 2009 season. Their early start caught me off-guard, as they normally don't start touring until late March. It turns out that the early start of Kelly Miller had everything to do with the death of Circus Chimera.

After the cancellation of their 2008 season due to changes in the visa rules for temporary workers, they were apparently unable to recover, and are now no more. This saddens me, and many circus fans, around the country. Circus Chimera was a premier show, traveling with an international cast of both human and animal acts. Their tours were primarily centered in the west, spending much of their time in California. Their winter quarters, like many a mud show over the years, was in Hugo, Oklahoma.

So what does Chimera have to do with Kelly Miller? KM was able to purchase the tour dates that Chimera still held, allowing them to start more than a month early on their tour. Word has it that their first three days of shows have been more than sellouts, forcing Kelly Miller to add shows where possible.

This bodes well for mud shows this year, despite the loss of a major provider of shows. With the economy in the tank, luxuries are the first to go. While smaller towns are suffering as much as larger cities from the economic situation we are facing, there is still the need for fun, and circus fulfills that. I am hopeful that the rest of the season will be as wonderful for them, and for all of the mudshows that are out there traveling in these tough times.

If nothing else, most of the circuses will be thankful for the greatly reduced gas prices this year. Most traveling circuses were paying over $4 a gallon for gas; it's now half that or less. And when profits can increase for traveling shows, it is insurance for their future survival.

Kelly Miller was near my big city a couple of years ago, in late September, near the end of their season. I'm hoping this is my lucky year again. I'd love the opportunity to do my economic duty and support traveling circus.