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Friday, May 4, 2012

Circus coming to Alamogordo Sunday

By John Bear / Alamogordo Daily News
lcsun-news.com
05/04/2012
For Barbara Byrd, the circus has always been a family affair. They even name the elephants after family members. 
Byrd is one of the owners of the Carson and Barnes Circus and a former performer. The circus is making a stop in Alamogordo on Sunday. 

"We're out of southeastern Oklahoma," Byrd said. "The circus was founded in 1937. They moved down to Oklahoma to get a warmer climate for the animals." 

She said the circus started in Kansas, and hit up Missouri and Arkansas before settling in the Sooner State, just north of Paris, Texas. They travel, as Byrd puts it, "coast to coast" and "border to border." 

"We have over 100 people who travel with us, set up and give performances. It's about a two-hour show. 

Animals the circus uses include several endangered Asian elephants, Appaloosa horses and a pygmy hippopotamus named Katie. 

"She is larger than a normal-sized pig," Byrd said. "We have a swimming pool we take along with us and she is quite the pet around here. Everyone loves her." 

Byrd said the circus helps breed Asian elephants and has the second-largest gene pool in the United States behind Ringling Brothers. She said the circus works with zoos to keep the animals around for future generations to learn about and enjoy. 

"There isn't really a wild," Byrd said. "Even back in India. 

The circus brings elephants on the road with them and they perform in the show. She said elephants have life cycles similar to humans and they tend to retire in their 50s, depending on the elephant. 
"I think it's important we keep elephants on exhibit so children can see them firsthand and develop a love and respect for them," she said. 

The circus also boasts another unusual animal -- the zedonk: half donkey, half zebra. It is also known as a zonkey. They have camels, alpacas and an entire petting zoo outside the tent that is free to the public. 

Speaking of tents, Byrd said a circus isn't really a circus without one. They can seat about 2,000 people underneath theirs. 

"We feel that if you don't have a tent and elephants, you don't have a real circus," she said. 

Byrd said in addition to the many different kinds of animals, the circus has a variety of human performers from all over the world -- Peru, Mexico and Europe, in particular. She said they have a hoola-hoop girl, a motorcycle act, a balancing act, flying trapeze, high wire, "the wheel of destiny" and a contortionist. 

"I can't even describe what he does," she said, referring to the contortionist. "It really blows your mind." 

Byrd said the show is tied together by a clown named Alex. 

"We have a great clown. He is kind of the star of the show," Byrd said. "He performs several acts, but he is kind of the thread that ties it all together." 

The Carson and Barnes Circus is coming through Sunday only at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. at LaVelle Road and Alamogordo Drive. Tickets are available at the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce or for a discount at www.bigtopshow.com. 
Circus will be Lions Club fundraiser




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