Circus opens tonight at JQH Arena
George Carden says moving the circus from the Shrine Mosque to JQH Arena has allowed the show to reach new heights.
(Photo: News-Leader file photo )
By Jan Peterson
April 2, 2014
George Carden has been with the Shrine Circus one way or another since 1957, thanks to a chance encounter when he was a child.
Carden’s mother, a single mom who was a dancer on the “Ozark Jubilee” television show, took her son to the circus. “She went to take me to the boys room and all the sudden a gentleman popped up and gave me a snow cone and a cotton candy, and I got those because my mama was so pretty,” Carden recalls.
That man was the owner of the circus.
Carden says the next thing he knew, he was in the back seat of a car traveling with the circus. “I’ve been in the circus for 57 years. He adopted me and raised me and I had the greatest father in the world,” Carden says.
This year, however, marks Carden’s last with the circus, which opens tonight at JQH Arena.
Carden sold it to Bill Cunningham in December 2013 and plans to stay with the circus until December of this year to help with the transition.
“He’s doing a great job,” Carden says.
The circus will feature all of the acts and animals audiences have loved over the years — trained tigers, elephant rides, aerialists and clowns — plus exciting modern additions that include tumblers, motocross stunts and, of course, the human cannonball.
Carden says moving the circus from the Shrine Mosque to JQH Arena has allowed the show to reach new heights, literally.
“It makes a total difference because you can get so much more in there,” Carden says.
That’s especially true for the human cannonball. “David Smith Jr. is the world record holder for the longest and highest shot,” Carden says.
Carden says that while he’s loved living with the circus, he’s ready to let someone new take the reins. He points out the circus life is a hard one and at the age of 62, he’s ready to give up life on the road to spend time hunting and fishing.
“When that circus comes to Springfield, it comes from Dallas. Tuesday, it’s in Poplar Bluff. Thursday, it opens in Springfield. It closes Sunday in Springfield and goes 479 miles overnight to Sioux City because they’ve got a Tuesday evening performance. That’s what I don’t miss: the driving. It’s sure nice to get up in the morning and have your coffee and relax and go to your bed in the evening,” he says.