Duchess and some of her caretakers prepare for the start of the circus tonight with a pre-show party at 7 p.m. in the Cajundome.
from: the advertiser.com
Written by Matthew Sigur
Jun 21, 2012
On Wednesday, crews are sweating in the Lafayette heat, setting the stage for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's return.
"We're basically a small city that moves to each town every week," clown Dean Kelley said.
Just last week, the show was in Jackson, Miss. This time is valuable for the Ringling Bros.; however, if they needed to, Kelley said the circus could be set up within eight hours.
"We can come into an empty arena, and, if we need to, we can be show ready in eight hours," he said. "Or less, if everyone works really fast."
Kelley is just one small part of the production. The circus comes in with seven semi-trailers — four of which are filled with more than 20 animals. The other three are filled with thousands of feet of cables, stereo speakers, mixing boards, food for the animals, costumes, chain motors and more.
"It's amazing to me because it looks like chaos right now," Kelley said, looking at the half-built stage and steel cage where motorcyclists will do tricks. "But every nut and bolt is accounted for. When we leave, it looks like we were never here."
Kelley wanted to be a part of the circus since he was 4, after seeing a Ringling Bros. show in his home of Kansas City. Though the famed Ringling Bros. Clown College closed one year before Kelley was ready to attend in 1997, he rode to Anaheim, Calif., for an open audition in 2002 and signed a contract to be a clown.
This year, the 31-year-old Kelley will celebrate a decade being a clown. He said it's a lot of hard work, but it has its rewards.
"A lot of people think you put some makeup on your face, and you act silly, and you're a circus clown, but no," Kelley said. "Clowns actually train just like acrobats do, but we train a little differently. One of my favorite things to do in the show is watch the audience because I'm part of a show where I can see three generations of people in the same row, oohing and ahhing at the same thing. That's pretty amazing."
\While Kelley hosts the pre-party event to this year's Barnum Bash and is the unofficial MC for the big show, Catherine Carden and her husband, Brett, help to take care of the three Asian elephants, including the 41-year-old, 8,000-pound Duchess.
"She's a gentle giant," Cardin said.
Carden's love of taking care of animals started when she was 12 years old, after her father bought her Silver, a white Shetland pony. Cardin is a seventh generation circus performer and animal trainer. Her family used to run its own circus in Florida. Her knack for giving attention to animals, though, comes from her mother.
"My mom was one of those crazy ladies who took in all the strays and fed the neighbor's animals," she said. Elephants have been a part of her everyday life for the past 40 years, Carden said. Though her job might seem like it's a tall order, she said working with elephants can be a breeze.
"The main portion of our job is not the glamorous part, but the animal care, making sure they're comfortable," she said. "I work with them. I interact with them. I put them through their paces. I can't really call myself an elephant trainer. They're so smart. You just explain what you want them to do, and they do it."