Halley Frisco and Val perform in the ring under the Big Top during a dress rehearsal at the Cole Brother Circus of the Stars, in DeLand, on Friday. (NJ | Peter Bauer)
By VALERIE WHITNEY, STAFF WRITER
From: Daytona News-Journal online
March 24, 2012
DELAND -- Halley Frisco, 7, skipped around the circus ring Friday as Val, a 4,500-pound young Asian elephant, trailed behind her.
Their playful routine was among the acts going through final rehearsals Friday before today's 128th edition of the Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars, which bills itself as "The World's Largest Circus Under the Big Top."
The show opens today at the DeLand Municipal Airport on a vacant lot off U.S. 92. Show times are 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. today and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
"One of the unique features of this tent is that everyone (in the audience) is only about 50 feet away from the action," said Chuck Werner, senior marketing director for the circus.
Among the new entertainers this year are aerial artists Petya Milanova, of Bulgaria and Wendy Aguiar of Argentina. The two women hang above the ground, suspended by a special braiding hook from the hair on their heads.
"The hair has to be wet," said Milanova, who learned the trick a couple of years ago from a friend and taught Aguiar how to do it this year.
When asked if they get headaches, both women said no.
This weekend, meanwhile, marks the beginning of the season for the circus that will run until Thanksgiving weekend, according to owner John Pugh.
"We perform from Florida all the way to the New York-New England area and as far west as New Orleans. The nickname for this circus is the 'I-95 circus' because we are never too far away from the interstate," Pugh said.
The circus employs about 180 people when it is traveling, he added.
DeLand is the winter home of the circus. The circus does not own the animals. Instead, the animals are property of the performers that use them in their acts.
Under the direction of Juergen Nerger (not seen) a tiger jumps through a ring of fire during a dress rehearsal at the Cole Brother Circus of the Stars, in DeLand, on Friday. (NJ | Peter Bauer)
"This is pretty much the circus that your grandparents came to see," Werner said. "We did try it one year without the animals and the public went crazy. They wouldn't come. The public likes the animals."
The Cole Bros. trademark dates back to William Washington Cole and his "W.W. Cole's New Colossal Shows" in 1884. The name was changed after his death and the circus was purchased by Canadian showman Martin Downs and his son James. During the 1920s, brothers Floyd and Howard King owned and operated Cole Bros.
The circus nearly went under during the Great Depression but survived and changed hands a couple of times. It thrived in the 1960s and 1970s under the ownership of Frank McClosky and Jerry Collins. After his partner died, Collins operated the circus for several years before donating it in 1981 to Florida State University. The university sold it in 1982 to Pugh, who formed Cole Bros. Circus Inc.
For the last seven years, the show here has been sponsored by the DeLand Jaycees.
"Times are tough and when you can have some fun, it brings things into perspective," said Karen Fuhrmann, vice president for community development for the group, which raised money so that underprivileged children could attend the show.
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