Circus visits Schuylkill Haven
Andy Matsko/staff Photo
Lisa the elephant pulls on a pole to raise the big top tent Thursday for the Kelly Miller Circus on the Island in Schuylkill Haven.
BY AMY MARCHIANO (STAFF WRITER amarchiano@ republicanherald.com)
June 22, 2012
SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - The circus came to the borough Thursday.
Elephants, camels, llamas, horses, zebras, tigers and even dogs camped out on the Island as the Kelly Miller Circus from Hugo, Okla., set up their tents Thursday morning.
The circus had two shows, at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Kenny Frehafer, assistant borough recreation director, said the circus had been in the borough before seven or eight years ago.
"Our main concern was, 'Is it going to rain?' I didn't think there would be extreme heat today," he said shortly before the tent was put up, a job that takes about 2 1/2 hours because it includes the ring, the bleachers, lights and other structures inside.
Before the show, spectators could see the animals up close.
"I think it's fantastic, living in a small town, that something like this can come," said borough resident Maggi Fessler, 37. Her sons, Kaede, 9, and Grayson, 3, were with her.
Before entering the tent, aerialist Rebecca Ostroff gave a history of the circus and talked about the animals. An aerialist is someone who performs on a trapeze.
Andy Matsko/staff photo
A crowd gathers to watch the Kelly Miller Circus raise its big top tent Thursday in Schuylkill Haven.
Some children were surprised when they noticed Lisa, one of the elephants, not far away.
The 36-year-old, 8,000-pound elephant moved four poles into place one at a time as part of the big top being erected shortly after 9 a.m. Wearing a harness and pulling two chains attached to a skid loader, Lisa walked slowly forward, her ears flapping at times to keep cool. In about 15 seconds, once she started moving forward, each pole was in place. Lisa then moved backward briefly a step or two. A guide, Armando Loyal, was giving commands to Lisa, one of three elephants, the other two being Becky and Tracy.
The 39-foot-high European push pole tent required about 20 people to make it spring to life. All told, 93 people work with the circus, Ostroff said.
The group does "almost 500 shows a year" and starts in early February. Those who work the circus work seven days a week, Ostroff said. Normally, they spend one day at a location.
Ringmaster John Moss said the experience a circus can give is rare.
"It's live performance that is rare these days. It appeals to multiple generations," he said.
Each year, the circus travels about 15,000 miles, Moss said.
As her 2-year-son, Justin, stood in front of the llamas, Angela Watcher, 33, said her son was excited to attend the circus "because he's obsessed with animals."
Amy Troch, 37, and her daughter, Kasie, 6, both of Cressona, were at the Island at 8:30 a.m. in anticipation of the circus.
"I'm anxious to see the tigers," Kasie said.
The origin of the circus dates back to 1938. It was started by Obert Miller and his sons, Kelly and Dorry, according to a history of the circus at kellymillercircus.com. It has changed names over the years.