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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Big Apple Circus sets down in Bridgewater for two weeks

Animal trainer revels in a prickly situation at the Big Apple Circus


Jenny Vidbel knows how to navigate around all kinds of animals. / NJ PRESS MEDIA FILE PHOTO ~

Written by Chris Jordan, Staff Writer

from: mycentraljersey.com

Feb. 27, 2012

Here’s a question you don’t get to ask every day: Who’s easier to work with, Snooki from MTV’s “Jersey Shore” or a porcupine?
New York state-based animal trainer Jenny Vidbel knows the answer.Vidbel, who will be at the TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater March 3 to 18 as part of the Big Apple Circus, includes a porcupine in her act, and she appeared with Snooki on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”“Snooki’s much harder to work with,” Vidbel quips. “I’d much rather spend time with my porcupine.”


Don’t try this at home: Jenny Vidbel of the Big Apple Circus works with Percy the Porcupine. / NJ PRESS MEDIA FILE PHOTO

“(Percy, the porcupine) loves to climb in my lap, and he loves to get his belly rubbed,” Vidbel said. “He loves attention and affection. He’s so friendly and personable — he’s a sweet, sweet boy.”Porcupines have a reputation in the circus business for being, er, kind of prickly.“They say they’re mean and dangerous and to stay away,” Vidbel said. “He’s an angel, and I’m blessed to have him.”You’re not going to see lions, tigers and bears, oh my, in Vidbel’s act, although she knows how to navigate around creatures with big teeth and claws because she comes from an animal-training family. Rather, it’s Arabian horses, delightful dogs, a capybara (a very large rodent) and more that make up Vidbel’s whimsical animal menagerie.“All the animals are harmless to the public,” said Vidbel, a third-generation circus performer whose grandfather is from Trenton. “The act is more about displaying them, showing their natural beauty and sharing it with the audiences

No critters are harmed in the act, Vidbel said.“Now, it’s really about showing off the beauty and natural ability of the animals,” said Vidbel, a veteran of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. “Circuses made a shift in the last 20 years ... the animals are more well cared for then average animals.“There’s a lot of work that goes into that care,” Vidbel said.

While Vidbel’s act may look glamorous from afar, there’s an awful lot of work that goes into it. It’s a very romantic idea when they come to see the show,” Vidbel said. “They see all the glamour but they don’t see us getting up at 6 in the morning doing our daily work. You do something like this if you truly love it, so it doesn’t seem like work when you get up at 6 in the morning.

You’re ready to get out there to be with the animals because you love them.”The theme of this year’s Big Apple Circus is “Dream Big.’’ The cast includes the Flying Cortes from Colombia, the mirth and magic of Scott Nelson and Muriel Brugman, aerial beauty Anna Volodko and juggler Dmitry Chernov from Russia. Also featured: Swiss hand balancer Melanie Chy, the Shandong Acrobatic Troupe from China and hosts Jenna Robinson and Andrey Mantchev.Grandma Barry Lubin, a Ventnor City native who now lives in Garwood, will clown around one last time with the Big Apple folks. This is his farewell tour.Of course, the circus has become famous for its intimate one-ring setting, where attendees are no more than 50 feet from the action.

Oh, Percy the Porcupine will sharpen things up, too.“I can’t believe I get paid to work with such amazing animals,” Vidbel said.

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