Setting up a circus in the Myrtle Beach area
Tents are always going up or down
by Steve Palisin
Dick Garden drove in with the first vehicle Tuesday morning from Concord, N.C., near Charlotte, hours before the Piccadilly Circus' two shows inside the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Almost 70 years old, he loves the lifestyle. "I was born in it," said the longtime manager, standing on the loading dock, "like most of us." His son and co-manager, Zack Garden, who minutes later oversaw setup of Piccadilly's performance ring, lights, a motorcycle globe, ticket booths and everything else in this road show, agreed. "I couldn't imagine doing anything else," said the father of two, the fourth generation of Gardens in the circus world. "It's the greatest job in the world."
Piccadilly Circus worker Red Cunningham sets up some of the ringside 150 folding chairs as he prepares for two performances of the circus later this day at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Myrtle Beach sits in the middle of having two circuses roll in and out of town within a week. The Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars, from DeLand, Fla., near Dayton Beach, will erect its tent for shows at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, across from the convention center in the former Myrtle Square Mall parking lot. Mobility matters most for a circus, because the entourage of various recreational vehicles and trucks hits the road again the evening after a performance to start a whole new cycle in another city or state. Zack Garden, who steers a semi-trailer that houses sleepers for 15 people in the front half, and equipment in the rear, said arranging the circus stage takes about 90 minutes, and disassembly takes about 30 minutes. It's a routine the crew has down pat, and performers and circus hands team up to fulfill many roles to make the system work. "Everybody knows where everything goes," Zack Garden said as a crew hoisted light panels onto poles around the ring. "Setup never changes. Everything has its place." Garden, who has spent much of his life in circuses, said by age 13, he had visited five countries and 49 states. Although Piccadilly utilizes only an indoor circus unit this year, with plans to bring back a tent unit next year, he finds its presentation "homey and cozy" with about 50 people overall and about 20 animals, including three monkeys and a kangaroo.
Photos by Steve Jessmore firstname.lastname@example.org Piccadilly Circus worker Mike Blake carries the sides of the one ring as he helps prepare for two performances of the circus later this day at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The Piccadilly Circus was the first of two circuses to play Myrtle Beach within a week; Cole Bros is here April 4-6.
The Piccadilly caravan, based in Sarasota, Fla., departed Tuesday night, heading back toward Charlotte for its next stop, in Fort Mill, on Thursday. Zack Garden said typically he'll pull out with his rig 45 minutes after the show ends, when elephant rides continue for patrons staying afterward. He quoted a common question from his 2-year-old daughter, already comfortable atop a pachyderm in the show: "We're ready to go to the next town, Daddy?" Cuinn Griffin, promotional director for Piccadilly, said crews start taking down parts of the circus stage even during a show, in the background. "You do a new town every day, pretty much," he said, summarizing a coast-to-coast calendar lasting from February into December, with "a week or two off here and there." Matching wants with likes Today, Cole Bros. begins three days of shows in Ladson, north of Charleston, before trucking up the coast to head to Myrtle Beach with a tent for its three rings and bleachers and seats. After its Grand Strand gig, the troupe will set up at Wilmington International Airport for four days through April 10.Read more: http://www.thesunnews.com/2011/04/01/2072178/setting-up-a.html#ixzz1IGN0kBbV