Human Cannonball will take to the air during Cole Bros. Circus Saturday and Sunday
BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN
Human Cannonball — Human Cannonball Dale Thomsen poses with the cannon that will send him flying across the Cole Bros. Circus big top Saturday, March 15, and Sunday, March 16, on the DeLand Municipal Airport, where the circus will set up its showgrounds. Thomsen is being fired from the cannon as many as 35 times a day in practice for the show.
By Pat Andrews
From;WEST VOLUSIA BEACON Online
Mar 13, 2014
The circus is coming to town!
Actually, the circus is already in town. DeLand is the winter headquarters of the Cole Bros. Circus. The clowns, trapeze artists, other performers, elephants, tigers, barkers and the rest of the crew are busy gearing up for the opening of the spring circus season — Cole Bros.’ 130th, which starts in DeLand Saturday, March 15.
A big attraction for kids of all ages is "the Human Cannonball," an act in which a man is fired from what Cole Bros. guarantees is the world's largest cannon, and he flies across the big top.
With the greatest of ease — Not exactly. It takes perfect timing, coordination, strength and derring-do to fly through the air after being fired from a cannon.
That man will be 28-year-old Dale Thomsen. Thomsen has been training for three years with circus veteran Elvin Bale.
Bale is a fifth-generation circus performer who was a human cannonball until an accident in 1987 left him walking with the use of canes.
The cannon had been set up, and a dummy of Bale's weight was used to measure how far to place the cannon from the net that would catch him. The trouble was, it had rained, and the dummy was wet and heavier than Bale. The calculation was flawed, and Bale came down on asphalt past the net, breaking many bones in the process.
BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN
Master — Elvin Bale, Human Cannonball Dale Thomsen’s trainer, operates and fires the cannon during Thomsen’s performances. The cannon is equipped with a hydraulic firing mechanism, cameras and video, so Bale can communicate with Thomsen inside the cannon, which the two liken to the interior of a Gemini space capsule.
Bale still loves the circus. He's vice president of operations for Cole Bros., as well as a trainer. He's taught a dozen or so human cannonballs their craft — very carefully.
Bale's parents had an animal act, and that’s where he started in circus work.
"I started with a shovel," he said.
But Bale was a daredevil from the get-go, even taking a car for a joy ride at the age of 6, during a French tour.
Bale's eyes were always lifted to the top of the tent, watching the aerialists. He became a trapeze artist and a human cannonball, flying through the air in a different manner.
A human cannonball is an aerial acrobat, Bale and Thomsen agreed. Being fired from the cannon is the least skilled part.
"It's like getting hit by a truck," Bale said.
The human cannonball must exit the cannon in a precise configuration and steer himself through the air to come to a safe landing in the net.
Thomsen, who hails from St. Cloud, Minn., said he loves the act and the circus. Like Bale, he was always a daredevil.
"When I told Mom I was doing the human cannonball, she just said, 'Have fun,'" Thomsen said. She knew protest would be futile.
While Thomsen wasn't born into the circus, he said, "I chose it … and I'm really excited to be part of the show."
Thomsen is in his second season with Cole Bros., and he has been training as a cannonball the whole time