We recently made our annual pilgrimage to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. This time, it was in Lafayette, at the Cajundome.
We always go to the circus with Tip and Gayle Cline. Gayle is a circus fanatic and has been a dyed-in-the-wool member of Circus Fans of America for decades. Her love of the circus brought us all together. Gayle gets her hair cut at the same salon that we started going to when we moved here. She found out that I was married to a genuine Ringling Brothers clown and the rest is history. When we were King and Queen of Krewe Déjà Vu du Monde, our theme was Circus Circus, and of course, we asked Tip and Gayle to be on court with us. We created a truly magical night under an imaginary Big Top at the Lake Charles Civic Center!
So we set off for Lafayette: the clown, the wife of the clown, the circus fanatic and the husband of the fanatic. Meeting us at the Cajundome were Gayle’s daughter Katherine and her grandson Billy.
An hour before the show, there were long lines outside the building, but they were moving fast. Once inside, we headed for the pre-show party on the arena floor. And what a party it was.
The crowd had the opportunity to mingle with performers, take pictures, get autographs and experience the circus before the show even started. New this year, we were able to go backstage and observe some of the animals, including an adorable elephant named Duchess and two camels called Jewel and Sheik.
Phil chatted with clown Dean Kelley, who worked the crowd of kids with sheer enthusiasm. Kelly remembered Phil from the show that was held in Lake Charles last year—and even recalled that we owned a publication. Give that clown a balloon!
Let me point out that I never knew that a one-ring circus existed until I moved to Lake Charles. The cosmopolitan city of Boston was always host to a three-ring circus, so I was shocked the first time I saw that an entire show would be held in one ring. But I soon got caught up in the entertainment, which was so fast-paced and dazzling that I no longer noticed.
The smaller version goes to venues that are not large enough to host a full circus. So rather than have us travel over two hours to Houston, we can go to Lafayette or Beaumont and enjoy the real deal.
Another plus is that with a more intimately formatted production, the audience is only feet away from the action—so it’s more up close and personal.
Ringling calls this particular show the “Barnum Bash,” which is more like a big, glitzy party. Instead of a ringmaster, there are three “Ringlettes” who sing, dance and perform acrobatics to pop tunes. Memorable acts include a strongman from Russia who executes amazing feats of strength (a vehicle drives over him—don’t try this at home, kids), the Urias family (I remember them from the Big Show back in Boston), who ride their motorcycles at outrageous speeds in a huge metal globe, and the Flying Cruzados, performing stunts that defy the forces of gravity on the Double Wheel of Steel.
The most awesome aspect of the circus is that it appeals to everyone. There were babies and grandparents and everyone in between, laughing, gasping in awe, and just having the most wonderful time. Really, where else can you bring the whole family and be so thoroughly entertained?
And personally, it was so good to be there with my husband the Ringling Brothers clown, who was back in his element, remembering his life long ago, when he lived on a circus train and performed his heart out in front of audiences all over the country.
If you missed the circus in Lafayette, it’s not too late to see the Greatest Show on Earth. Even better, The Jambalaya News is giving away tickets! Just go to page 45 and follow the instructions for your chance to win four tickets to any of the shows scheduled at the Ford Arena in Beaumont, Texas. We’re selecting five winners, so you have a good chance. Enter now—and may all your days be circus days!