Big top circus a five-generation affair
By Ben Wilgus, June 17, 2010
Family traditions often involve going to the same vacation spot each summer, the same restaurant every Friday night or unfailingly gathering on certain holidays, year after year. Certain family traditions date back several decades, such as the way grandma makes her pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner, or if you receive the same gift from Aunt Flo each Christmas.
This does not apply to the Osorio family.
The Osorio’s family tradition is not one that is common among those in the United States, but it’s one that once you are a part of, you don’t want to leave. The Osorio’s are a circus family and with more than 90 years of circus experience, you can say their family tradition is unlike any other.
Brothers Frank, Leo and Robert along with their parents and sister run the American Crown Circus-Osorio out of Las Vegas, NV and will be performing for three days at Waterfront Park in Downtown Martinez on June 22-24.
There will be two shows, one at 5:30 p.m. and the other at 7:30 p.m.
The American Crown Circus-Osorio will have several attractions, including the Globe of Death, where motorcycle riders perform tricks in a circular ball Also performing will be a contortionist, a high wire act, a teetering board act with flips and special tricks and everyone’s favorite circus attraction – clowns.As a traveling circus, they rely on sponsors to help with costs and to find places to perform.
While in Martinez, the American Crown Circus-Osorio is sponsored by Main Street Martinez
.As a fourth generation circus family, Frank, Leo and Robert now have their children involved and there is now a fifth generation of Osorio’s in the circus life. “One of my daughters actually works the ticket booth and handles all the bookkeeping and accounting stuff, while my parents stay in Las Vegas and handle a lot of things. Everyone else handles the day-to-day stuff,” Frank Osorio said.
As kids the Osorio brothers learned the high-wire act from their parents, first starting to learn to walk on the 5/8” wire a foot off the ground, then three-feet, then working their way up to 30 feet above the ground.“It’s a mind game. You just train yourself to do it and it becomes second nature to you after a while, being up there. We trained seven days a week for two-to-three hours per day,” said Frank.
Jesus Osorio created the original Circo Osorio in 1927. Later on Frank, Leo and Robert’s father, Hermino, became a trapeze artist, a lion trainer and the first person in Mexico to create the human cannonball. Even though working for the family was important, each of the Osorio children got their education, and when the time came, they resorted back to their love – working in the circus.
The family moved from San Antonio, Texas to Florida where the kids worked on their high-wire act. “A lot of people who perform in the circus are from Florida. The weather is really nice in the winter time, which is when you train for the upcoming year,” Osorio said
In 1990 the brothers got a job working in the midway at the Circus Circus in Reno, NV.
They were known as the Electrifying Osorio Brothers where they worked until 1995 when they moved and took a job at the Circus Circus in Las Vegas, NV. They worked the high-wire act there until 2001 when they started the American Crown Circus-Osorio. “The window of opportunity to perform in the circus is small. But once you work for the circus, there is always something for you to do,” Osorio said.
Prior to working at each of the Circus Circus’, the Electrifying Osorio Brothers worked at The Great Escape Park in New York, Busch Gardens in Florida and Knotts Berry Farm in California. The brothers performed two-man highs, flips and a variety of other tricks in their performances.“People would come and pay to watch us walk on a high-wire. It was really enjoyable,” Osorio said.
Currently the American Crown Circus-Osorio employs roughly 25 people between performers, an event crew and administrative people back in Las Vegas.
Traveling across the country they visit Nevada, California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.“It’s great. We basically get paid to travel eight months of the year and we get to meet people and see difference places of the country, that we normally wouldn’t see,” Osorio said.
Prior to coming to Martinez, the circus spent time in Newark and will then be traveling to Suisun City.Not everyone in the family works for the American Crown Circus-Osorio, as sister Maria Vargas-Osorio and husband Alex Vargas work for the Ringling Brothers Circus. Maria is in charge of the wardrobe department and Alex is in charge of the animals.“My father used to say, people come to the circus to get away from their problems. We want people to enjoy themselves and we feed off of the people,” Osorio said.
While none of the brothers still do the high-wire act, they still travel and Frank said the months when they are at home, organizing for the next year, he can’t wait to be out on the road.