Thousands see Barnum Bash over weekend

Monday, April 30, 2012
Performers with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey entertain the crowd Sunday, April 29, 2012 at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

More than 6,800 young-at-heart attendees came out over the weekend to see five shows of the Barnum Bash at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. The Barnum Bash is an updated version of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus that features the acts with smoke, lights and confetti set to music as a complement to the action and pageantry in the arena.

One of the features of this newer version of the circus is the replacement of the ringmaster with three women, called the Ringlettes, who dance and sing. Another is the absence of clowns in full makeup. There is one clown in makeup who makes some announcements, but the comic relief between acts is provided by a comedian named Anton, a hip clown without makeup, who struggles to be part of the entertainment throughout the performance.

One constant is the preshow activities for children where they learned to balance a feather on their finger, chin and shoulder. They also were introduced to Duchess, a 42-year-old Asian elephant from the safety of the outer ring. Then they were invited into the ring to participate in a dance party, experiencing dances such as the monkey, sprinkler, twist and robot. Costumes were available for the children to try on, and backstage they could view some of the animals and the metal cage used by the motorcycle daredevils.

This was the first circus for Destiny Barbeau, 9, of Crump.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the elephants," Destiny said. "I think the circus will be a fun place."

The show hosts a variety of animal acts including camels performing dances with horses and ponies, dogs that tango, and, of course, the wildly popular Asian elephants.

There was no lack of daredevil acts in the production. Performers completed acts of contortions high overhead and motorcycle acts that tested gravity and the laws of chance.

The trapeze artist had several new tricks on display, one of which was walking upside down by placing his feet into straps secured on a bar. There was no net for any of the performers.

The sideshow acts in center stage featured fire eaters and a woman who used a flaming Hula-Hoop. The Mighty Demitri, a strong man, displayed his strength by lifting seven performers at once. Later in the show, he lay in the middle of the arena and was run over by a Jeep loaded with people.

"I liked the Hula-Hoops on fire," said an enthusiastic Lydia Barrows, 5, of Perryville, Mo. This was her second circus.

The center stage overflowed with gymnasts, dancers and singers.

Robert Rowland, 13, of Poplar Bluff, Mo., attended the Sunday performance with his cousin, Claudia Rowland, 3, of Sikeston, Mo. This was the first circus for both of them.

"I liked the motorcycles in the cage," Robert said after the show.

Gris Bohner of Perryville attended Sunday with her son.

"The circus is awesome," she said.

But the work of the circus extends beyond the performances.

"Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey make it a point to give back in every community we visit," said Jason Gibson, the circus' production manager.

"In the case of Barnum Bash ... the idea of the Red Nose Ride came from two different directions," Gibson said. "We had done a Red Nose Ride in other markets, and when we found out Bootheel Harley-Davidson was interested in working with us, we combined efforts. Any event we do, we try to bring awareness to a local children's non-profit organization."

The Red Nose Ride helped to collect stuffed animals for Beacon Health Children Charities.

"The Elephant Brunch for some of the kids at Jefferson Elementary provided a reward to them for their accomplishments academically as well as behaviorally," Gibson said. "The brunch is an event we use to show kids the importance of eating healthy and a proper diet, like our elephants; as well as provide a unique experience for them of being just feet away from these amazing, majestic animals."

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will next stop in Carbondale, Ill., on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Pertinent address:

1333 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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