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Thursday, May 6, 2010

BIG APPLE COMMING TO STAMFORD, CT.



Look, up in the sky, it's . . . a clown on a stickBello Nock, the famous clown and star of the Big Apple Circus performs a balancing stunt atop a 92 foot pole in Columbus Park on Tuesday May 4, 2010 in Stamford, Conn. The performance was held to promote the Big Apple Circus' 32nd all–new show, Bello is Back! as it makes its first ever appearance under the Big Top in Mill River Park from July 9 through July 25. Photo: Katheen O'Rourke / Stamford Advocate
STAMFORD -- Outside Layla's Falafel, customers eating lunch under Tuesday's hot high noon sun stopped to crane their necks and stare into the sky.
So did the waiters outside Bobby Valentine's Sports Gallery, the pedestrians turning from Summer Street, the clusters of people cooling themselves beneath the trees and the 50 schoolchildren crowded at the point of Columbus Park. All eyes remained on the tuxedoed man swaying wildly 92 feet above them.
Bello Nock, the daredevil clown of the Big Apple Circus, was in the midst of his stunt, a series of gymnastics atop the slim pole, which bent sharply in the wind like a straw. Spectators gasped and screamed, some muttering "Oh my god" in hushed tones and pointing cameras skyward as Nock flipped, dangled and swerved from the pole.
Nock's outrageous stunt was part of a promotional event to announce the appearance of the Big Apple Circus at Mill River Park from July 9 to 25. In concert with the city of Stamford, the Mill River Park Collaborative and the Downtown Special Services District, the circus will perform the full show "Bello is Back!" under the big top, an event that is expected to draw thousands.
"We knew we wanted to do something special in Stamford," said Phil Thurston, public relations manager for the Big Apple Circus.
Setting up a pre-show promotion is a usual procedure for the circus, and the feat Nock performed on the swaying pole is original: His father invented the stunt using the trunk of a Swiss pine tree.
"It was designed to do exactly what we're doing today, which is to draw awareness to the circus coming to town," said Nock. "It's a free climb -- there's no ropes when you climb, no ladders, no nothing."

Nock, whose family has been performing in the circus since 1772, spent the morning setting up the massive pole. It was hoisted with the help of a crane and anchored in a 300-gallon tank of water, which acts as a ballast to keep the pole from tipping completely over as it sways. Helping Nock with the mechanics were fellow stunt performers John "Mercury" Morgan and David Martins, as well as Nock's son, Alex.
Nock said that, though executing daring stunts doesn't faze him, he likes to handle all the preparations himself.
"As a daredevil, people think you're a thrill-seeker, that you're careless or living life on the edge recklessly. That's actually the furthest thing from the truth. I want to live life to the fullest, to experience life to the highs of emotions," he said. "In the world of circus, I'm the biggest celebrity and look at my hands: calluses and dirt, and I'm in work clothes."
Dressed in a plain black shirt and jeans, Nock looked quite different from the persona he exhibits beneath the big top. By the time a crowd began to gather at noon, Nock was in costume, with his shiny tuxedo, red bowtie and stovepipe hair in place, ready to meet Mayor Michael Pavia, members of the DSSD and representatives from UBS, the event's lead sponsor.
At the head of the crowd was a group of students from Julia A. Stark Elementary School, for whom the day was a treat.
"It was a reward for the kids who had perfect attendance," said Educational Assistant Monica Frattaroli. Stark is the partner school for UBS in Stamford.
Speakers addressed the students and the assembled street spectators before and after the stunt, including Chris Wearing, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Big Apple Circus; Robert Wolf, chairman and CEO of UBS Americas; Pavia; DSSD President Sandy Goldstein; and a surprise guest: Jerry Springer.
At Springer's appearance, the students from Stark began chanting loudly, "Jerry, Jerry!"
"Boys and girls, you shouldn't know me. Where are your parents?" Springer said, adding a joke about his television show no longer being the only circus in town.
In his brief speech, Pavia outlined two volunteer initiatives, Stamford Community Day and "Give in Service, See the Circus," which reward community volunteers who sign up with participating agencies free tickets to a circus performance on July 13.
As Nock climbed to the top of the pole, he drew attention from all corners of the park and the surrounding streets. He waved his arms, clung on with one hand, and flipped upside-down with both feet in the air as the pole bent an arc across the sky.
"This is just a smidge of what he does," said John "Mercury" Morgan, standing amidst the crowd. "He's really a modern-day Harpo Marx -- there's not a lot of comic daredevils out there."
Below, Elaine Lodato watched in awe. Lodato heard about the circus event from a friend and decided to come downtown to have a look. She confessed she was amazed.
"I'm impressed how he climbed the pole," she said after Nock slid back to Earth. "Then when he came down, he came down so quickly."

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