Its Circus Time

By The Columbia Chronicle

I must admit that I have never been a big fan of clowns. It’s not that they scare me or anything, because they don’t. I just don’t find them very entertaining. Actually, I guess the word that I would use to describe them best would be annoying.

Yet I will admit after going to the 129th edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus last Saturday evening at the Rosemont Horizon, I may have to re-evaluate my stance on the subject of clowns.

I hadn’t been to the circus since I was seven or eight years old, so when the opportunity for a free ticket presented itself, I thought, “Why not?” I work with people who have developmental disabilities (DD) and my employer needed volunteers to escort the members to the circus, so I signed on to help. There we were; 23 members and seven staff personnel, out for a fun-filled evening of popcorn and cotton candy gorging, elephants and tigers, and of course, those wonderful clowns.

The place, packed with an estimated crowd of just under 12,000 people went dark at 7:30 p.m. and all one could see were the lightsticks that people had purchased earlier waving around. Spotlights revolved around the Ringmaster who wore a long-tailed, shimmering gold coat, and he started the evening off with the traditional “Ladies and Gentleman” spiel. It was at that very moment I realized something important, I really didn’t care for the circus! I had completely forgotten. Call me a cynic, but with the cheap gimmicks they display, the price gouging that goes on at the refreshment stand ($4 for a slice of pizza!), and not to mention the behind-the-scenes animal cruelty stories we’ve all heard, I knew I was in for a long night.

Huge, colorful banners displaying images of circus acts with the words “Kings of Comedy” and “Peerless Performers” hung from the rafters. I had to smirk at the circus’ attempt to advertise their entertainment value — enough already. I watched with the rest of the crowd as the various acts were taking place in each of the three rings, like miniature horses parading around (it’s not officially a circus without miniature horses). Also, who could ever forget the tiger cage attraction? Not to mention, the 13 elephants lining up in a row, each with their front legs resting on the back of the elephant ahead of it Now that’s entertainment!

My primary duty was to tend to the needs of the 23 members. I would escort them to the restrooms or purchase stuff for them. Needless to say, they kept me busy. It was upon my return from one of many runs to the refreshment stand that my view of the circus was changed. As I knelt on the aisle steps with a handful of food and drink trying to remember who bought what, I glanced down the row.

The eyes of every member in this row were transfixed on whatever was happening down on the circus floor. Each one of them had the biggest smile on their face and the rotating spotlight made their teeth sparkle each time it hit their face.

And do you know which act was taking place? It was the clowns doing a skit involving a piano that was suspended in mid-air. Of course, the climatic scene would be the piano falling on the clowns, but the members didn’t know this. So, when this happened, I smiled. Not because it was so gut-busting funny, but because the people I work with enjoyed it so much. I now have a new word to describe how I feel about clowns. That word is appreciation. They, along with the rest of the circus attractions, helped to make the evening a memorable one for the people I was with, and I appreciate that. I appreciate them.

The last words that the Ringmaster said that evening were, “May all your days be circus days.” If only it were that easy (not to say I won’t try).

The circus finished its run at the Rosemont Horizon last Sunday, but that doesn’t mean they left town yet. It just changed venues. The circus will be in town until Nov. 29 at the United Center. Go out and enjoy yourself!