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.

Back on the Trapeze

I've been woefully neglectful of this blog of late. Several recent emails reminded me that I have an important resource going here, and I need to maintain it. So, with that in mind, I'm going to jump back into regular updates of this blog, which means at least one post a week.

I hope to bring new links in to circus blogs, publish tour dates as I get them, and talk about shows old and new. There are some terrific circus bloggers in the space, but there's always room for one more.

If you've been waiting for me to get back to business, I apologize for letting you down. If you're just finding me after doing a search for information, then welcome.

Onward and upward!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Circus Flora 36th Season

Circus Flora returns for its 36th season with a new show and attractions. “Medrano” opens June 5 and runs through June 21 at the Grand Center big top. “Medrano” takes place in 19th century Paris, a world populated by artists, writers, musicians, political exiles, Russian spies, Gypsies and diplomats. This year, Circus Flora will produce a peanut-free preview June 4, add a Friday matinee and host a barbeque June 14. Tickets cost $8 to $36 and will go on sale soon through Metrotix. For additional show and cast information, visit