I saw the greatest show on earth today: the Ringling Brothers Circus

November 8, 2008 | By | 12 Replies More

I went to the greatest show on earth today.  No, really.  I attended the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Baily circus with my wife and two daughters, aged 8 and 10.   It was intense and spectacular.  We all loved it.

If you like danger, you’ll get your fill.  If you like animal acts, you’ll be amazed.  If you are ADDH, you ‘ll be in heaven.  There was so much going on for two hours, I’m still not sure how to accurately inventory all the things that I observed.

I tried to get some photos from our $20 seats, about 18 rows up.  A few of them turned out.   For example, take a look at this guy, the tiger trainer (click on this for a larger image):

This trainer commands order in this cage three shows per day.  What a gig!  Everyone in our family was painfully aware that he was in terrible danger every second.  If even one of his 12 tigers got angry at him, his life-expectancy would be only 10 seconds.  We were also quite aware that the fence separating those mighty tigers from us was made of rather thin chain link.  For the finale of the tiger show, the trainer convinced two of the tigers to hop across the floor, balancing only on their hind legs. It was jaw-dropping stuff.

There were lots of animal acts, including dogs, horses and zebras (yes, zebras) that were simply unbelievable.  It was like having a zany dream or being in a cartoon.  The show even included 9 elephants.  I probably don’t need to mention that seeing these sorts of sights is not an ordinary part of my day.  These sights and sounds were truly out of the ordinary.

The individual acts were jaw dropping, but the intensity of the circus (held inside a hockey arena).  There were several parts of the show that involved more than 100 employees on the floor at once.  It was poured at you, as though you were wildly surfing through a television channel-changer.  There were clowns, jugglers, stilt-walkers, trapeze artists, world-class gymnasts, more clowns, live musicians, an announcers with a bellowing voice and even a man and woman shot 200 feet through a huge cannon.

But I couldn’t help wondering how they made payroll, given all those human and non-human animals.   Now could I quit thinking about the incredible job done by the roustabouts, or the technicians.   If the circus comes to your town, and if you don’t mind exuding like a little kid (like me), it’s well worth $20.

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (12)

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  1. Karl says:

    Last time I went to the circus I was told not to take any pictures.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    At the circus, they announced that we could take photos for personal use. This blog is a personal blog (shared by multiple authors). We have never made a penny in income.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika: Good point. I would admit that I went to one baseball game per year, on average (no other professional or college sports). I'm keeping it in check.

    Thanks for remembering that point.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    I've been to about a dozen circuses, most frequently to our local Circus Flora, once or twice in my childhood to Barnum et. al, and maybe counting performances at Circus Circus, where we have stayed on some of our drives to California. Vegas is a relatively cheap place to stay, if you know how.

    I've been to two baseball games, both at the old, classic Busch Stadium. Once for Straight-A tickets in 1974, when I had to try to explain the game to my father. The other time a friend took me for a farewell visit to the stadium before its demolition in 2005. A pop foul hit my seat while I was wandering around taking pictures of the old, architecturally significant structure.

    <img src="http://dangerousintersection.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/dcp11200.jpg&quot; alt="2005 Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO">

    I prefer small circuses, where you sit close enough to see the faces of the performers.

  5. Not to pop your circus balloon, Erich, but the abuses those animals suffer in order to travel and perform are legendary. Is that no longer the case? I would have had a hard time enjoying myself unless I could have been certain that the whips and cattle prods were a thing of the past.

  6. artemis says:

    wish I could go.. but animal allergies prevent

    Circus Flora is an up-close and personal, not-so-overwhelming performance that I strongly recommend.. take your family to that one next time they are in town.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Mike: I don't know enough about the way these animals are treated. Your comment led me to read a dozen posts about the way circuses treat the animals. I suspect that many of these posts and articles are highly biased. Half of them say there is no abuse and the other half say that trainers have treated elephants horribly, with sharp hooks to inflict pain to make them do their tricks. If anyone knows of a credible source, someone who presents a balanced point of view, I'd be interested in knowing more.

    Here's an example of one of the critical articles I read: http://rawstory.com/news/afp/Ringling_Bros_circus

  8. Andrea says:

    Erich, you're pictures are great! I tried to take a couple of photos but my little Kodak camera did not do the Circus justice. I was excited like a kid as well watching my grandson experience his first circus. There was definitely a lot going on at once. Not much down time that's for sure. Glad I mentioned it to you and you took the family and had a good time!

  9. Dan Klarmann says:

    I saw Cirque du Soleil: Mystère in Vegas in the 1990's.

    Here is a picture of an act I caught in Berlin in 2003 with a little (3 megapixel) Kodak DC4800

    <img src="http://dangerousintersection.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/dcp_6089.jpg&quot; alt="Chinese Contortionists">

    This was a 1 second exposure, without a tripod. Flash was understandably prohibited.

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    A former elephant trainer for Ringling speaks out about what he considers to be inhumane animal training techniques. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34442605/ns/us_news-w

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