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Friday, April 8, 2011

Starry-eyed entertainment at Cole Bros. Circus

StarNews photos by Mike Spencer

April 7th, 2011

by Alex Pompliano

from: starnewsonline.com Wilmington, NC--There were three of them, and they looked menacing for a circus. Dressed in black, this trio – a family, actually, from Venezuela – created dust clouds in the ring by popping wheelies on motorbikes. One sported a neon mohawk. Then three clowns emerged, the classic kind: vibrant-colored and riding tricycles. The clowns were chased by the motorcyclists and rodeoed against a ramp, where they were jumped over by the family. This depiction of new thrills over old was analogical of the recently revamped Cole Bros. Circus. It was also an indicator that the circus has slightly changed by keeping up with the times. It had been over a decade since I’ve stepped under a tent this large, so maybe this had already been already the norm. (The most carnivalesque thing I’d encountered lately was streaming Fellini’s “La Strada” on Netflix.) However, experiencing the Cole Bros. Circus tonight was more exciting, more alluring than I remembered the circus to be.

4:30 p.m. today began one of the Azalea Festival’s more anticipated events, the 127th annual Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars – so named because its dome interior replicates a luminous and celestial nighttime sky. The event still holds onto aspects that makes the circus a representative family pastime. It features costumed characters, aerial ballet, death-defying stunts and exotic animals – the most unique being a Liger. Covering over an acre, jaunty ragtime music lured families toward a large yellow-and-orange tent on the grounds of Wilmington International Airport. Marketing director Debra Houston said attendees continue to grow annually in number, so this year they had to get a new tent for a larger capacity; it is 55-feet high with the dimensions of a football field. “Every year in Wilmington it just gets bigger and bigger,” said Houston, motioning toward the few unclaimed seats high in the stands. It began with a booming voice. “Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages step right up to the Cole Bros. Circus,” announced ringmaster Chris Connors to the roar of thunderous applause as 12 tigers rushed the ring led by trainers Juergen and Judit Nerger.
From that point on there were camels, elephants, acrobatics, slapstick, and everything one should expect at a proper circus. The excitement from the ThunderDrome, mentioned earlier, was the perfect buildup for the anticipated finale: José Bermudez, the Human Cannonball. Dressed in white, Bermudez waved to the audience and then slid into the “World’s Largest Canon.” A timpani rolled and the ringmaster counted down. 5…4…3…2…1. Mackenzie Sosie, 10, sat next to me, covered her ears but kept her eyes glued on the cannon. The peopled gasped as Bermudez was shot out across the Big Top to the other side where he gracefully landed on a net. I asked Sosie if she was scared and she shook her head. “It was loud,” she responded, adding that the animals were still her favorite part. The Cole Bros. Circus will continue through the rest of the weekend. Also expect to see protestors there as well. Armed with PETA signs, they promised to be at entrance of ILM Airport an hour before each performance .

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