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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Circus on the move during busy season



Herald & Review/Mark Roberts Lamount Dais, with the Kelly Miller Circus, leads a camel ride Sunday April 29, 2012 in Mount Zion, IL. Before the main event, parents and children were able to take camel, elephant and pony rides.
from: herald-review.com
April 30, 2012 
By ANNIE GETSINGER - H&R Staff Writer
MOUNT ZION — The tents went up in the field by Mount Zion High School on Sunday morning. And by the time you read this, they will likely be gone. The Kelly Miller Circus set up on the rainy Sunday between dates in Arthur and Vandalia as part of a fundraiser for the high school’s Les Femmes show choir.
“We’re like a traveling city,” said office manager Tavana Brown, a retired fourth-generation performer herself.




Herald & Review/Mark Roberts An animal caretaker uses an air blower to dust off one of three circus elephants Sunday April 29, 2012 in Mount Zion, IL. The Kelly Miller Circus featured elephants, camels, horses and reptiles.


The circus, based in Hugo, Okla., travels 36 to 38 weeks a year, opening in Brownsville, Texas, in February and working its way up to New Hampshire before a return trip through the Midwest. The performers do two shows each day, seven days a week, with days off for Easter and Mother’s Day.
The circus’s caravan consists of 35 vehicles, which carry 86 performers and staff, family members and a zebra, three elephants, camels, tigers, ponies and some dogs. The zebra is fairly new but is learning very quickly, Brown said.
The entire circus is self-sufficient, requiring only water when it sets up somewhere, she said.
Brown, a former aerialist, grew up in the environment. She started performing at the age of 9.
“It’s all aerialists in my family,” she said. “My grandmother came over to this country in the ’50s from Germany. She was taught by her father, and my father and grandmother taught me.”
Brown has been with the Kelly Miller Circus since 1989. There are lots of traditions involved in circus life, she said — family, cultural, performance.
“I think the core of circus is the community of family,” said Brown. “We’re a big family, but we’re little families all together all the time.”


 
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Herald & Review/Mark Roberts
A circus elephant named Lisa gives out a few rides before the Kelly Miller Circus in Mount Zion. A percentage of the ticket sales from the circus will support Mount Zion’s high school girl’s show choir, ‘Les Femmes.’
Ringmaster John Moss III has been working in the industry since 1985. He started out with a concessions job.
“When most kids were driving off to college, my mother put me on a Greyhound bus with my luggage, and I rode from Knoxville, Tenn. to Savannah, Ga., and knocked on the glass doors of a huge arena there and had a job waiting for me,” he said, as the tigers lazed about and chased each other in an enclosed area in the center of the big top.
Moss became a ringmaster in 1994 and joined Kelly Miller in 2007.
The Kelly Miller Circus show is traditional, with three aerial acts, a variety of animals, clowns and other performances, he said. Midway attractions included pony, camel and elephant rides, a bounce house and an oddity museum.
Children and adults gasped in the stands as aerialist Rebecca Ostroff, who appeared in the movie “Water for Elephants,” performed her signature “iron jaw” stunt, in which she hangs, spinning from a trapeze while supporting her entire body weight with her teeth.
Haley Campbell, 10, went to the circus with Penny Johnson, her grandma’s cousin.
“I like to come to circuses, so I borrowed a kid,” Johnson joked, adding that the two go a lot of places together.
She and Haley agreed that they liked the animals best — especially the tigers and the dogs.
Johnson never was able to go to the circus as a child, so she said she’s making up for it as an adult.

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