The circus comes to Ravenna

Ben Wolford

Granted: It’s not a visit to the Louvre, and it’s not a performance by the Cleveland Orchestra.

No, the tent’s too hot, the admission price is too cheap and the camels are too smelly for it to be anything like that.

The circus is a different breed of artistry. But make no mistake, it is art.

The traveling Carson & Barnes Circus came to SunBeau Valley Farm in Ravenna June 20, and for each of the two shows, 2,200 spectators (maximum capacity) nestled into creaky aluminum bleachers surrounding three rings.

All the scientists in the world couldn’t explain the greenhouse effect better than that big red tent.

Outside, elephants loosened up and stretched their quadriceps on the grass. Llamas and zebras stared at each other and waited for children to pet them, or better yet, feed them something.

A camel milled around with customers on its back.

The ringmaster’s baritone, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!” holler brought every lady, gentleman, boy and girl to attention.

First came the clowns with their typical antics, but they weren’t on long before the real performers came.

Acrobats in all three rings moved in ways that proved, “Why don’t you go join the circus?” is not an insult, but a compliment.

One man swung on monkey bars with his feet – something some people can’t do with their hands.

Two sisters dangled from each other’s limbs, upside down, 30 feet in the air.

Soon after, a trio of female entertainers portrayed their work in their medium of choice: the hula hoop. For the finale, they caught hoop after hoop on their gyrating torsos until three spinning Slinkies occupied the rings.

After them, three muscular Ukrainians entangled themselves in each other doing feats of strength and balance, grinning and waving at the crowd between each one-armed handstand on another’s head.

Intermission was a free-for-all. Children huddled around ring three waiting for elephant rides. In the center ring, little girls closed their eyes and opened them when the sparkly paint being applied to their faces had become butterflies.

Behind the butterflies, two handlers draped a 10-foot snake around toddlers for photos. A tiny girl screamed and cried while her mother giggled and smiled. It would be a good story to tell the girl in 10 years.

And of course, they saved the best for last.

The trapeze artists took to the suspense-filled air, amid cries of the ringmaster, “They’ll now attempt (drum roll) the dangerous triple backflip!”

The ensuing spectacle defined grace. Trapeze artists’ craft demands complete bodily perfection, focus, timing and faith.

Doing flips off of swings is an expertise with little use outside tents.

But then blowing into an oboe doesn’t carry much weight offstage, and slopping paint on canvas isn’t much good without a commission.

Beauty is everywhere, even among smelly camels.

Contact principal reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].