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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Circus brings joy to first time circus goers


Simone Dykes performs on the trapeze during the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus in Sturgis on Monday, July 4, 2011. (Amanda Friar/MCTT staff)

Amanda Friar MCTT staff Rapid City Journal Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Sturgis, SD--Clowns, tightropes and lions all made their way to the little town of Sturgis for the Fourth of July, and for many people, it was the first time they had ever been to a circus.

“It’s very exciting,” Teresa Forbes said. Forbes was visiting the circus on Monday with five-year-old Gus and seven-year-old Lilly. “It’s exactly what we expected it to be.” Lilly and Gus said they were looking forward to coming to the circus and their favorite acts were the lions and tigers and being able to ride the ponies before the start of the circus.


Paulina Dykes performs on the high rope during the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus in Sturgis on Monday, July 4, 2011. (Amanda Friar/MCTT staff)
The Hein family happened to be driving through from Canada on their way to Rapid City and saw the big top tent in the parking lot of Lynn’s Dakota Mart and decided to stop. This was their first Fourth of July and they were looking forward to celebrating it and had hoped to find some children’s activities.
“We wanted to take in the Fourth of July,” Jeff Hein said. “For us it’s a unique experience.”
This is the second time the circus has come to Sturgis, though it has been close to five or six years since it has been in town. The Culpepper and Merriweather Great Combined Circus came through and performed two shows for the town.


Melvino the Clown finishes his second act during the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus in Sturgis on Monday, July 4, 2011. (Amanda Friar/MCTT staff)
Culpepper and Merriweather are based out of Hugo, Okla. and spend 32 weeks traveling in their normal season. They visit 12 to 18 states and South Dakota was their 13th state they had visited already. On average, the circus travels almost 15,000 miles during their season.
“You’re basically with it 24/7,” stilt walker and public relations representative David “Stilts” Volponio said. “Each person has multiple responsibilities. You help wherever you can.”
The Culpepper and Merriweather circus has approximately 37 people on staff that travels with them during the season.
“You get shorthanded sometimes but it’s a team and without the teamwork and dedication it wouldn’t happen,” Volponio said.
Volponio has been with Culpepper and Merriweather for 23 years and said that many days it gets very difficult and it’s not all carnival games and clowns.

David "Stilts" Volponio carries an American flag around the circus ring in honor of the Fourth of July at the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus in Sturgis on Monday, July 4, 2011. (Amanda Friar/MCTT staff)
“It’s not always easy. I’ve seen days where I didn’t think the show would go another day,” he said. “But everybody pulls together and pitches in. It has to be in your heart.”
According to Volponio, it is the final result of seeing the smiles on kids’ faces that makes it worth it. He said knowing that he helped cheer someone up who may have otherwise been having a terrible day makes it worth the hard work and is the reason he keeps doing it.
“Being a part of it is really special,” he said.


Paulina Dykes leads a pony around while four-year-old Natalie Alsup rides it at the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus in Sturgis on Monday, July 4, 2011. (Amanda Friar/MCTT staff)
For Jessie Glodt and 18 month old Lily Glodt, it made their day to be able to see Melvino the Clown mess up while trying to ride a unicycle or knock over the stools.
“It’s more than I expected,” Glodt said. “It’s more than I expected for a little circus coming to Sturgis and it’s keeping an 18 month old occupied.”Read more: http://rapidcityjournal.com/meadecountytimes/article_5e86c740-acb6-11e0-8b7c-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1RylEs8Nh





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