The Culpepper and Merriweather Circus came to Colville this week! Small-town circuses are really fun! They were in town for two days, and the morning they arrive they give a Circus Tour. Great opportunity to find out if you really do want to run away with the circus, so a bunch of us went.
Our tour guide was Leo, who is also the circus clown. He was funny and genuine, and also very frank about life in the circus. He loves it, of course, and tours with his wife, who is a costume-designer for Disney On Ice. The Culpepper Circus has two tigers and a lion (Francis). Francis weighs over 500 pounds and was making guttural roars while we were there. Pretty awesome sound; you can feel it in the ground you’re standing on.
You know the term “three-ring circus”? It’s referring to the size of the tent, and how many rings there are holding it up. I didn’t know that. I think this was a two-ring circus. There are about thirty people who travel with this circus and they do everything: put up and take down the tent; design the props and shows; take turns cooking for the crew; perform all the acts; train the big cats and other animals; fix the vehicles and lights; etc. They’re on the road for 32 weeks out of the year and Leo says they get about two days “off” during that time. These guys are driving one of the 170 stakes that hold the tent up:
This circus used to have an elephant, but apparently he had to retire suddenly one year, and the shows they came up with to substitute that year were so popular they decided not to get another one. Elephants eat 250 pounds of food A DAY. And they do a lot of damage to property. So it turned out to be a good thing. Of course, elephants are also super cool, so that’s a bummer. This horse wasn’t as big as an elephant, but he was still gigantic. You can see his partner behind him. She literally fits right under his legs. Clydesdale and miniature horse. He’s apparently quite sweet, but she bites everyone except her trainer, Paulina.
This guy was getting ready for his daredevil act. He and his brother designed this thing, which is called the Wheel of Destiny for the show, but which the tour guide referred to as the Giant Bad Idea.
It was a fun tour! Leo says people have weird ideas about circus folks, but “We’re transient performers, not barbarians. We keep up with the news, and all the kids are homeschooled on the road.” Later that night we came back for the show…
Later, the kids put on their own circus show for us. Ethan was Phony the Clown, Ellie was The Superstar, Josh was the announcer, and Sam was the soundtrack. It was quite funny. At one point during his routine, Phony the Clown requested a new background track from the sound guy, who then burst into something with a catchy beat: “No! Not something awesome! Something silly!”