August 14, 2009

Under the big top, normal cares are forgotten

It's a different world, under the big top. Your normal cares are forgotten and -- regardless of your age -- you are transported into a world of sequins, pretty girls, fearless and muscled aerialists, colorful clowns and kitsch.

The circus has changed since you were a child. There are no lions or tigers, for example. And I've already whined about the elephants sitting out the erection of the tent itself. There's also just one ring, whereas in the old days circuses sometimes had five with performers carrying on simultaneously. If not five, certainly three. In truth, you missed a lot in those days.

Well, those multiple stages have given way -- thanks to the economy, and also a shortage of fields big enough for a really big top -- to one ring. But let me say this: Carson and Barnes fills that ring with wholesome excitement and spectacle. For two full hours, children and adults alike could do nothing but oooh and ahhhh -- or Booo! at the Master of Ceremonies in support of the clowns. The horses and ponies performed flawlessly, the aerialists missed just one catch -- only one! The contortionist pulled himself completely through a tennis racquet. The three hula hoop dancers started with just one hoop, and finished up twirling more than 20 simultaneously -- each.

From the seats, you probably couldn't tell who was who. Carson and Barnes travels, for eight months of the year, with about 120 people, but 20-some are the children of performers. Some of the kids have small parts in the performance -- the youngest, a five-year-old girl, just marches in the parade in a frilly costume. Others take performance lessons, along with their regular schoolwork overseen by a full-time teacher. That leaves 100 adults -- perhaps 40 from Mexico, most of the other performers from South America -- many of whom also set up and take down the big tent, work the midway and perform. An aerialist, for example, has one role on the Wheel of Destiny, another on the trapeze and yet another as the high-wire motorcyclist. Different costumes, and the speed of the show, and you'd never know it was the same performer.

Not that it matters. The details are subsumed by the overall spectacle. How'd they do that? is the operative question, not Who is that? Not that you have much time to question. One act is quickly followed by another; there are no commercial breaks during the circus, unless you count a few minutes to sell peanuts or coloring books, and a 15-minute intermission for the kids to ride an elephant or pony, or get their face painted. Funny thing: With all those youngsters present, I didn't hear a single kid cry or misbehave. Circuses are like that.

Performances continue Saturday at Pershing Park, at 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Be sure to go here to download free admission tickets.


  1. Lovethecircus8/14/2009 10:26 PM

    Agree completely with your review, Pete!

    Attended the 7:30 p.m. show on Friday and plan to return Saturday. It's an outstanding performance, worth every penny. And, best of all, it's right here in Racine!

    Go see the circus with your kids (or someone else's). You won't be disappointed!

  2. I may be in the minority, but I've always found something disquieting about circus, especially when I was a kid and they still had the human sideshows. I suppose now it's just the subservience of the animals, playing mere tricks for our supposed amusement.

    It is, in a word, ugly.

  3. There's something sad about clowns also.

  4. Amazing people and animals, what a show.
    Alot of work put into it.

  5. Circus' are barbaric forms of entertainment that should go the way of the do-do bird. It is nothing but cruel to the animals that are chosen to partisipate. Imagine if you where that animal, would you find being in a circus, locked in a cage, whipped and always being in strange surrounding have a different set of values than I do.

  6. Randolph, BAF: I despair for you, and those of your ilk, who find negatives to complain about in everything!

    What's next? The evils of ice cream?

    There is no human sideshow at the circus here this weekend; the animals appear well cared for and content, and clearly are not abused -- unless spending most of their time in the shade eating is abuse. The performers I spoke to enjoyed their work, are well fed and paid every week -- even the children. (Their only complaint was the 5 a.m. wake-up call on mornings the circus moves to another town.)

    Try to turn off your negativity and give in to the pleasures of life. You'll live longer and have much more fun.

  7. I am with Randolph on this one. Especially, Carson and Barnes.


  8. Pete:

    Why do you get so defensive when people have a different opinion than yours?

    Don't take everything so personal.

    I'm beginning to think that this "News" site / "Journalism" thing isn't suited for you.

    I'm being serious.

    Just an observation.

  9. Don't impugn Pete or the Racine Post. He went to the circus and reported on the acts, which he found amazing. You all sound like he hired the circus to come to Racine. Really, can't you just marvel at what people and animals are ABLE to do?

    By the way, is anyone concerned about where the mayor was in this story?

  10. Hard to tell which one he was with all of the costumes and make up, isn't it?