Friday, September 14, 2007

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Circus was in town -- The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey -- to be exact. I haven't been to the circus since I was a kid. I vaguely remember going, on the bus, for a field trip to Grand Rapids sometime in middle school, or was it elementary? Whichever, it's been a long time.

On Wednesday, when the kids heard the circus was going to be in town, they begged to go. I thought about it, primarily the cost, and then decided, What the heck? It would be fun to go! So we made plans to check it out.

On the evening news Thursday, they reported that the Circus Train had arrived and that there would be the customary parade as the elephants and horses were lead to the Van Andel Arena. No need to say more, my daughter and I jumped into the van and headed downtown. For some reason, my son didn't show the slightest interest, and I couldn't tell you why... But, we arrived early and waited on the sidewalk of Ionia Avenue. It is a simple parade, and really cool. First came the elephants, walking all in a row, with their handlers, then two zebras, and finally the horses -- absolutely beautiful animals! The tail of the parade was a truck with the pooper-scooper patrol riding on the tailgate. Fortunately for all of us there was no poop to scoop!

I started checking out ticket options Friday during the day and we decided to go that night for the 7 o'clock show. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed! When they say, The Greatest Show on Earth, they're not exaggerating.

We went to see The Circus of Dreams, which featured a host of talented performers. (You can read an article about it at "Circus Encourages Big Dreams") I'd have to say my favorite one was...well, all of them!

Seriously, the most fascinating act was Madame Shamsheeva who had trained domestic cats to perform tricks! I couldn't believe my eyes, especially since I have a house cat who's about as lazy and disobedient as they come. The cats were in pet carriers in a row a few feet from the bar where they performed, an assistant would open a carrier and a cat would run out, directly to the "stage." They did all type of cat tricks -- weaving in and out of spindles, crawling across a double "tight rope", jumping from perch to perch, crossing over a ladder -- and as each finished, gave their trainer a "high paws" for the finale, and then, right back to the pet carrier. It was amazing!

Actually, the whole circus was amazing. The level of skill and dexterity of all the performers is top-notch. There were aerialists, clowns, and singers and dancers. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping stunts were performed by Super Silva, who walked upside down with no safety harness high above the floor, and The Torres Family, who rode seven motorcycles in a 16 cubic foot steel sphere - an incredible feat! I would have to say the most beautiful of the acts were the horses ridden by the Cossacks, where Roman riding, equestrian and acrobatic skills were demonstrated. If you haven't seen these riding forms, you haven't yet lived! Totally cool! There were white tigers, zebras and llamas, and the famous elephants. Chuck Wagner as the Ringmaster and Jennifer Fuentes as the Circus Songstress. Herkules the Strong Man and the Shenzhen Acrobatic Troupe. All of them did a spectacular job.

Going back to the circus after all these years was worth every penny we paid. If the circus is scheduled to come to your town, I highly recommend you go, whether or not you have children! It truly was an awesome experience -- I felt like a kid again oohing and ahhing at each spectacular feat -- and The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is truly The Greatest Show on Earth!

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