STEUBENVILLE - It took three hours for the set-up crew to erect the European style big top-tent in the Fort Steuben Mall parking lot.
Taking down the tent after the Monday night show went a lot faster for the crew.
The Carson and Barnes Circus arrived in the city for a one-day stop featuring two shows and immediately started drawing visitors.
UP IN THE AIR — Performers with the Carson and Barnes Circus thrilled the large crowd that gathered for Monday’s evening’s performance. - Janice Kiaski
Rolling into town for that one-day visit were 115 employees and 40 vehicles, ranging from trailers to semi-trucks looking for a temporary home; the big top itself and a petting zoo near the J.C. Penney store.
J.R. Chase and his father, Frank Chase, of Amsterdam arrived early Monday afternoon and stopped first at the pigmy hippo tank where Katie was partially submerged in a large tank of water.
Then they moved to the pen where a donkey was petted and finally to the elephant area where Kelly and Viola, two female Asian elephants, were eating hay.
But it was the small train that ran on a circular track that really caught J.R.'s attention.
"He loves trains and we will definitely be back later for him to ride this one," explained Frank Chase.
Nearly 1,800 people attended the two shows Monday and watched a variety of performances. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Grand Theater Restoration Project.
The Carson and Barnes Circus, the first circus to stop in Steubenville in several years, moved to its next performance site today in East Liverpool.
"We are in our 76th year of operations. And we are very proud of the fact we are the oldest family owned circus operating in the United States," said Kristin Parr, a fourth-generation family member working in the circus office.
"I started out working with the elephants. But my performance days are far behind me. Now I work in the office," said Parr.
"We put on a traditional circus show that includes the flying trapeze, a dog and pony show, the Wheel of Destiny with a motorcycle and probably our most popular act that includes Alex the Clown," she said.
"My parents always told my sister and I we could do anything we wanted in life. We both went to college and then came back to the circus. You could say we have saw dust in our veins. It is a different lifestyle. You have to love working in a circus to stay with the circus," cited Parr.
The traveling circus is based in Oklahoma and is currently in the middle of a 220-city tour.
"That's two shows every day. Come November we are all ready to go home. But by February, we are itching to get back on the road again," Parr remarked as she watched the big-top tent slowly take shape.
"People call this organized chaos. But if you watch for a few minutes you can see everyone knows his or her job and it all goes very smoothly. Everyone knows where they are supposed to be at this moment. Our days are split up. The performers are resting now because they will be in the center ring in a few hours. That's when the set- up crew rests. Then as the 7:30 p.m. show is winding down the set-up crew starts taking down the sets and packing them away for the next city and the next show," declared Parr.
Parr said 15 children are currently traveling with the circus and attending a daily school provided by Carson and Barnes.
"I have three boys and my oldest son works as an usher during the shows. My sister has a son and a daughter and my niece is in the opening magic act. They are all learning the circus from the ground up. I believe being in the circus teaches the children a real sense of responsibility," Parr said.
"We are very careful with our animals. Katie the pigmy hippo is now 27 years old. She likes to relax and swim in this huge tank of water. When we have weather as hot as it has been recently, we need to hose down the animals and keep them hydrated," she explained.
That included a half-hour bath compliments of the Steubenville Fire Department.
"The circus had made arrangements for us to spray the elephants with water. First the trainer sprayed them to get them used to the water then we sprayed them down for about a half hour. While we were spraying one elephant down the other one was dancing. It was fun to watch," related Steubenville Fire Capt. Chris Blackburn.
Visitors to the circus Monday afternoon and evening were able to ride the elephants or camels.
"This is an old-fashioned family circus and we do our best to make sure everyone has a good time," Parr noted.