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Saturday, November 19, 2011
Once known as Safari Pete, now he’s known as Farmer Pete but he’s still taking his show on the road.
Born in 1943, Pete grew up in Lancashire, England, where his parents performed circus acts. At 10, he was walking the high wire and training circus ponies for his dad’s acts.
Then, in 1966, he moved to Canada because he had cousins, uncles, aunts and a grandmother there.
“I got off the boat on a Monday and started work at a furniture store on Wednesday. Then I met a guy who worked with a circus and I was off.”
Gradually Pete built his own circus. First he purchased a Ferris wheel and some kiddie rides. Then he built a roller coaster and started traveling all of North America; Canada, Mexico and the United States.
He added fun houses and a cotton candy trailer and 17 games and traveled North America from top to bottom.
One day, he decided to sell out and take a job at Farm Fun Park in Ontario. But soon, he put in his own show again- this time, called Circus Fantasy where he clowned and worked with animals and had a petting zoo.
One winter he played in Sarasota and realized how many other show people lived on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
He loved it immediately but didn’t settle here just yet.
“I had a contract with Boblo Island in Ontario that lasted nine years.” He fulfilled it, but spent his winters in Florida. By that time, he had more than 1,000 animals in an act called Old MacDonald’s Zoo and it took three semi-trucks to transport them.
“Moving from place to place wasn’t easy,” Pete said.
Yet he would come to Florida when the northern roads got too cold to travel and work with his animals, costumes and acts. That’s when he began doing shows at the Florida State Fair in Tampa.
By then he also had a dog and monkey show and raced roosters and runner ducks.
But then there was a party. A biigggg…. Party.
It's just the start of the magical thrills of this 2 1/2-hour spectacle, which opened Wednesday in the Pearl District and continues there at least through early December, with further extensions a strong possibility. Cavalia uses complex staging and plenty of technical wizardry to tell the story of humanity's interaction with horses. But even if it didn't have all the razzle-dazzle, the show would captivate because the horses are so magnificent.
Cavalia's massive scale is truly impressive. The show features 45 horses representing 10 breeds. The horses are all male, and 18 of them are high-spirited stallions -- known for their temperamental nature, as well as their love of showing off. There also are 41 riders and circus performers, many from far-flung locales like Morocco, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. The whole venture occupies several blocks' worth of space, with nine tents housing everything from stables and a cafeteria to souvenir stands, including the 110-feet-high performance tent, which is the largest of its kind in the world. read more:http://www.oregonlive.com/performance/index.ssf/2011/11/cavalia_dazzles_with_its_story.html
Circus emphatically denies mistreating kangaroos
A Piccadilly Circus representative told The Californian Friday that its boxing kangaroo act is not a boxing match between a kangaroo and a human, as has been claimed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The circus has been touring through California for the last two weeks, prompting PETA to challenge the kangaroo act.
PETA said Thursday that it filed a complaint with the California Fish and Game Department to stop the Piccadilly Circus from operating its Rocky the Boxing Kangaroo event in California. The animal-rights organization said the act, featuring a boxing kangaroo called Rocky, breaks state law by causing Rocky unnecessary torment.
In the act, Rocky is dressed in boxing shorts and gloves and is placed in a boxing ring with his owner, who "antagonizes the animal into defending himself," PETA said in a press release.
But Cuinn Griffin, promotional director for Piccadilly, said PETA's interpretation of the act is inaccurate.
"We do not put someone in the ring to fight the kangaroo," Griffin said in an email. "It's not a boxing match. There is no violence whatsoever. These PETA reps have never seen the act."
PETA said Rocky's owner, Javier Martinez, has been cited by the U.S. Agriculture Department for violating the Animal Welfare Act and is operating the act in California without a permit. He's also breaking state law that prohibits combat between animals and humans, PETA said.
PETA added that at least two kangaroos used in the act have died, one from a bacterial disease that can be caused by stress, overcrowding and poor hygiene. It added that Martinez knew the animal was sick but forced him to keep performing until he died.
But, Griffin said Martinez "has no violations and has never been cited."
Nevertheless, the California Fish and Game Department has inspected the circus twice at appearances in northern California but "found no kangaroo present."
"On both occasions, everything was in order," said John Baker, assistant chief for the central enforcement district of the department, on Thursday.
Baker said the circus was denied its application for a kangaroo permit in California. It did have permits for the other animals it was exhibiting, he said.
But Griffin said "We have not been denied any permits," when asked if Piccadilly was denied a permit for a kangaroo in California.
The department sent a warden to Piccadilly's Bakersfield stop on Thursday night for another inspection, which also turned up no kangaroos, said Janice Mackey, the public information officer for the California Fish and Game Department's central region.
"We went out there a third time and no kangaroos were present" at the Bakersfield show, Mackey said, adding that all of Piccadilly's permits "were in order."
But, in a strange twist, "The warden did see someone in a kangaroo outfit that was attempting to box with another carnival worker," Mackey said. It's unclear whether that was an act for an audience or on the sidelines "for practice" she said. "I don't know why anybody would want to watch that."
Griffin confirmed that this was the circus' act at the Bakersfield performance.
Though the circus "can do the kangaroo boxing act in other states," in California, where animal welfare laws are stricter, it cannot, Mackey said.
Griffin said the act does "perform all across the United States."
Thursday, November 17, 2011
"We've had a history in Evansville with different venues," said Shriner Brian Ball. "This is 78th circus and we started with our very first circus on Riverside Drive, then we moved to the coliseum a few years later and then we moved to Roberts Stadium when it opened in 1957. Now we're just following suit and moving right into the Ford Center."
This year's eight-show run starts with a 3 p.m. opening performance on Thanksgiving Day and includes three shows on Friday and Saturday. The circus closes with a Sunday matinee performance at 3 p.m. Ball said there was no hesitation to become one of the first events during the Ford Center's opening month and that he hopes all spectators have an enhanced viewing experience compared to past years.
"There is really not going to be a bad seat in the house. In the past, there have been obstructions just because of the way Roberts Stadium was set."
Just like at Roberts Stadium, there is enough space to serve as an animal staging area, Ball said.
"We might need a couple extra external places to keep mechanical equipment and vehicles and things like that, but otherwise I think it will work out well."
It will also be the only event in the Ford Center planned this year without the sheet of ice used for Evansville Icemen home hockey games. Normally when the building is being used for other events, the ice lies protected underneath a layer of insulation.
Ball said the Shriners have already toured the Ford Center and are excited about their first show in the new place.
"Right now, we're not seeing anything that we can't do that we have done in the past. It's going to be a great circus this year. We're going to continue to bring some of the best acts that we can find — nationally and internationally — to the Evansville area for everybody to see at this year's circus."
According to a news release, Piccadilly Circus is celebrating 25 years entertaining families throughout North America. One of the busiest traveling circuses today, it boasts acts ranging from the traditional to the sublime.
Among them: the Elephant Extravaganza, where you'll witness Oka, a 9,000-pound Asian pachyderm standing atop a 3-foot-round ball before rolling across the circus ring; Motorcycle Madness, where two-wheeled daredevils somersault and spin inside the giant Globe of Doom. For those who prefer being up close and personal with bizarre beasts, there's Katunga, the giant jungle monster; the White Tiger Spectacular; and Rocky, a 250-pound kangaroo who enjoys comedic audience participation.
High atop the flying trapeze, you'll be astounded by a troupe of acrobats, plus world-renowned contortionists the Mongolian Angels, who can pretzel themselves with ease.
Of course, no circus would be complete without clowns, who will keep you in stitches as they try making the big top rounds in a 1923 Model T Ford with a "mind of its own."
Doors open one hour before show time, and each show runs 90 minutes. Special pricing is available.
Like magic, Thomas and tigers are back at the Tropicana
Thomas is the latest in what has become a surge of Christmas shows to the Strip, all of them late to either close a deal or to announce their plans.
I have written more than Thomas enjoys being reminded of one of the more ironic twists of Las Vegas entertainment: The magician gave up his long-running afternoon show at the Trop in 2005, amid widespread talk that the hotel would be imploded. So he moved to the Stardust. Which was imploded instead.
Thomas and his tigers have since toured the town, most recently playing the Saxe Theater, a stint that was termed temporary while the Riviera's classic showroom was being remodeled.
The Riviera has seen many improvements in recent months, but the showroom isn't among them. Thomas says investors balked at the Riviera wanting the entertainment tenant to foot the bill for expensive, long-delayed upgrades. Understandable, since you usually don't take the upholstery with you if the show closes.
The magician says he has no quarrel with the Riviera, but knows "hotel theaters come like winning the lottery. It just doesn't happen very often. You have to take that opportunity wherever a theater opens its door for you."
Thomas will offer afternoon shows at the Trop at 4 p.m., moving into the evening slot to add a performance when Recycled Percussion goes on vacation starting Dec. 26. He hopes to "continue the relationship" next year. "I know what I can do for their hotel," he says, after a seven-year run there.read more:http://www.lvrj.com/neon/like-magic-thomas-and-tigers-are-back-at-the-tropicana-134023283.html
All proceeds benefit the BEF, which provides grant money to Burlington Public Schools to fund creative and innovative curriculum enrichment programs.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The lights dimmed and ringmaster Audrey Alvarado stepped into the spotlight to introduce the show.
They kicked things off with Bruno Blaszac’s Bengal Tiger show, and murmurs rippled through the audience when a man with wild hair and black leather pants coerced several tigers to leap through a flaming hoop.
Later a clown came out to entertain the children, and they fueled his goofy antics with shrieks of laughter.
Alvarado, a Texas native who is one of the few female ringmasters in the circus world, said she was born and raised in the circus, as many circus performers are, she explained.
She grew up performing acts with her brother, many of which involved a mix of animals, including elephants. For a while she was an aerialist, until she left the circus at 14 to go to school.
Alvarado had finished high school and her first semester of college when she met her husband, Israel Alvarado, who supervises the Circus Spectacular. Before she knew it, she was back in the family business.
She eventually became the ringmaster and has enjoyed doing that ever since.
Roberto Rodriguez / Amarillo Globe-News - A tiger performs Tuesday during the George Carden Circus Spectacular at the Amarillo National Center.
Nina Carden, an aerialist at the Circus Spectacular, said she is one of the few performers who wasn’t born into the circus business, but even she started young.
She went to circus school starting at age eight, and she said she fell in love with it but never believed it would become her career.
When she graduated high school, she still was passionate about circus performing, so she searched for an opening and began working at a small circus when she was 18.
Eventually Carden moved up the chain and got on the with the Circus Spectacular as an aerialist.
“Aerial arts was really my passion,” she said, “because I felt like it was the perfect combination of dance, which I liked, and theatrics, which I liked, but it was unique, which I am.”
Even now, Carden said she still has that passion for aerial arts and performing.
“Your crowd is what keeps you going,” Carden said. “I always say I like to come and inspire and be inspired by the people who come and see us every day and are entertained. For us, we do get jaded by what we do. You know, climbing up ropes is no big deal, but to see the faces of people who still think that’s amazing gives you energy and makes you think, ‘Oh, I guess that is kind of cool that I can do that.’”
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Photo #2 Billy Martin, Angela Martin, Hannah Crist
Special Guests for the evening included Billy & Angela Martin, Hannah Crist, Tim Frisco, and Larry Stout. Billy was the guest speaker and spoke on his 30 years plus experiences in the circus business starting when he was in high school and booked dates for Jim Cole. He and his wife Angela later purchased his show, and work inside dates in the winter time in the New York state area. Billy has been Ring Master on the Henneford shows for over 15 years. Billy and Angela also perform at Adventure Land Park , Des Moines, Iowa for about three months each summer.
#3. Tim Frisco & Larry Stout
Photo #4. Charlie Bellatti, Marilyn Sorrill, Roxann Williams
#6. Jake & Nat Sorrill
Monday, November 14, 2011
Resorts Casino brings back Cirque Polynesian with a holiday edition that runs through Dec. 30. You can also see Cirque Risque through the holidays. Authentic Polynesian warriors, fire eaters, Tahitian and hula dancers will perform, along with Cirque acrobats.
The bill, introduced this month in the House of Representatives by Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, aims directly at traveling circuses by seeking to outlaw exotic or wild animals from performances if they have been traveling within the previous 15 days.
That would mean an end to the days of elephants balancing on stools, tigers and lions jumping through fiery hoops, monkeys on wheels, or other popular staples of the ring.
"It is clear that traveling circuses cannot provide the proper living conditions for these exotic animals," Moran said in a statement.
He noted that zoos, aquariums, horse races and permanently housed animals used for shooting movies and other filming events would not fall under the ban.
The law is the first attempt for a decade to put an end to the iconic circus routines, which animal rights activists say are based on cruel training methods and harsh, unsafe living facilities.
America's most famous big top outfit, Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey, sent out an email appeal to supporters this week, saying "the Greatest Show on Earth" needed help "to make sure this family tradition continues."
Stephen Payne, a spokesman, said the bill was not pro-animal, but simply against circuses.
"It's to do with putting Ringling Brothers and other circuses out of business," Payne told AFP.
Payne said animal rights groups did not understand the circus business and were out of touch with Americans.
"They are at the fringe: they don't want animals for entertaining, they don't want them for food, they don't want them for pets," he said.
"What we get are millions and millions of families coming to see Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey."
According to Ringling Brothers, their circuses not only treat elephants well, but help preserve the Asian elephant breed, thanks to a self-sustaining, 50-strong herd that has seen 23 births since 1995.
The company also funds elephant conservation programs in the United States and in countries such as Sri Lanka.
"Asian elephants have been part of Ringling Brothers for 141 years," Payne said. "P.T. Barnum once brought his elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge to convince New Yorkers it was structurally sound."
But Ed Stewart, from the Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, said Ringling's elephants are not nearly as happy as their gaudy outfits and circus tricks are meant to suggest.
"There is no state of the art keeping animals in captivity. The state of the art is Zimbabwe and India and the wild, the hills of Virginia, but not in cages," he said at a press conference after the bill was introduced.
Stewart said children should stop being shown circus animals altogether.
"Real educators have to overcome what children see in the circus. It would be better if they didn't even have an experience with an elephant or a tiger or a lion if that's the experience," he said.
The event will raise funds for distribution to local charities selected by the circus committee.
The Royal Hanniford features many international performers, the award-winning Grotto Clowns, and pony and elephant rides. Show times are: 7 p.m. Nov. 23 and 24; 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 25; 10 a.m., 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 26; and 2 and 6 p.m. Nov. 27. Doors will open one hour before performance time. All seating will be general admission with plenty of free, protected parking.
For tickets or information call 330-953-1504.
The main ticket office at 7375 Market St., Boardman, will be open Monday through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. There is a special ticket offer for the 7 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Saturday shows: buy one, get one for half price with a coupon.
It was probably a quiet day on the Vidbel farm on what was then called Vining Road in the Mitchell Hollow area of the town of Windham. It was Thursday, Oct. 17, on what was not your average farm in the Catskills. Among animals on the Vidbel farm were three elephants named Bombay, Delhi and Siam. The Vidbels trained the elephants as well as horses for the George A. Hamid Circus, and Windham was a winter home for the animals.
My imagination kicks in with Dusty, a rascally horse, who knew as well as we do that elephants can get nervous when they're startled. Dusty and some equine cohorts saw the elephants hosing themselves down in the nearby creek and said, "Let's play a little joke on those guys."
The horses came out of nowhere and charged at the elephant trio, making them predictably rear up and then bolt for the woods of Mitchell Hollow, much to the amusement of Dusty and company, no doubt.
The imagination fades a bit at that point, and the true story begins. Alfred and Joyce Vidbel started a search for the elephants that evening. About an hour later, they found Delhi and Bombay (known now as Mumbai). Siam, however, had a case of wanderlust and likely told the other two, "I'll catch up with you later."
Once word got out that a two-ton elephant was loose near Windham, the search party got bigger. Civil Air Patrol planes joined the search, as did animal "experts." Once school got out in the afternoon, students from the area wanted to help find Siam. Many a youngster knew Siam from the circus or appearances on television.
A problem soon became apparent. Siam spottings were made, but searchers wondered what to do when they found the elephant. At the time, Joyce Vidbel said just to stay calm and do nothing, and to send for her.
"I'm the only one who can talk to her and make her behave," she said. Joyce and Siam performed a center ring trick called "the leg in the mouth and carry," so both performers had to trust each another.
Siam apparently liked her temporary spree of anonymity, as time and time again she'd be spotted and would slip away to freedom. A week passed and Siam had found plenty to eat in the wilderness. She soon became known in the newspapers as "America's AWOL Elephant." The nights were getting colder and the Vidbels were getting concerned. Siam was becoming a bit less jittery when encountered by humans, probably thinking it was time to get back to the Vidbel's farm. Warmth and all-you-can-eat hay were probably in the back of her mind.
After 13 days of roaming, Siam calmly gave in to a group of friendly captors. Joyce Vidbel fed her some hay and talked to her as they brought her to the waiting transport trailer. Siam gave up at a quarry about seven miles from the Vidbel farm. Siam had caught a cold during her wanderings, but was soon back to her old self. She probably had a lot of stories to tell Delhi and Bombay.
Dusty was unavailable for comment.
Back in September, I had the pleasure of an unexpected meeting with Joyce Vidbel, still living on the farm at Mitchell Hollow. When I identified myself and wondered about the infamous Siam, Joyce went indoors and brought out two huge scrapbooks.
Siam was indeed famous in Windham. The road name near the Vidbel farm had been changed to Siam Road in the late 1950s because of this episode. The Vidbels eventually parted company with the Hamid Circus and got their own Vidbel Circus underway, entertaining audiences near and far until retiring in 1998. A new generation has carried the show forward, now called Circus Vidbel.
"It has been an exciting life," Joyce said while going through the scrapbooks.