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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus aims to juggle audiences of all ages

Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor

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The Schottenstein Center drew in more than sports fans this weekend when it housed The Greatest Show on Earth and the “Fully Charged” performances that came with it, including canvas-painting elephants and humans set on fire.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus stopped in Columbus Thursday through Sunday as a part of its “Fully Charged” tour. It performed seven shows throughout the weekend.

The show featured worldwide acts, including acrobats, tightrope walkers and a performance from Tabayara “Taba” Maluenda and his 12 Bengal and white tigers. A total of 13 countries were represented in the show.

In addition to the circus’ nearly two-hour runtime, which included a 20-minute intermission, a preshow ran for an hour prior to the main event. During the preshow, audience members were invited to the floor to meet performers and animals, play games and enter to win a painting created by an Asian elephant.

The majority of performers were recruited through a talent team, which travels year-round in search of new acts. Among the performers were Guillermo and Alberto Fernandez, acrobat brothers who performed flips and jumps atop spinning wheels, and Brian Miser, “The Human Fuse,” who was lit on fire and shot across the arena from a giant crossbow.

While most performers spent their lives training for a chance to be discovered, one particular clown got his start from a less traditional route.

“I’m one of those unique people who literally ran away to join the circus,” said Sean “Pickles” Davis. “It was never on my radar. I actually met a dancer on the show back in 1995 and we hit it off and I literally ran away with this girl to be in the circus.”

Davis, who is from Chicago and served as a United States Marine during the first Gulf War, said even though he is no longer with the girl who led him to the circus, his journey is no less a love story.

“My love affair with the circus has greatly outlasted my young affair with that young lady,” Davis said. “I now have one big international family.”

This particular troupe of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performers is in its second year of a full two-year tour, which requires the circus to perform in a new city every week, for 11 months out of the year.

Though some might think of the circus as children’s entertainment, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus caters to all audiences, Davis said.

“The line ‘Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages,’ is there for a reason,” Davis said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80, if it’s your first time or your 50th time at the circus. We don’t cater to one specific age range, genre or group. We cater to families.”

Though targeted toward families, some OSU students were among the crowd, which filled about 80 percent of the Schottenstein Center.

Katelyn Pagano, a third-year in exercise science, came to the show with her boyfriend Dustin Crum, a second-year in health sciences.

“I have been to the Big Apple Circus and Ringling Bros. before, but not since I was really little,” Pagano said. “This was a really high energy event, and I honestly think it could be enjoyed at any age. I thought it was awesome.”

Even though the couple was older than the majority of audience members, first-time circus attendee Crum said the acts consistently impressed him.

“I would say my favorite act was the tiger taming act,” Crum said. “The man doing the act really seemed fearless, and I was just amazed that someone does that for a living.”  

Despite the performers’ busy schedules and exhausting performances, Davis was determined to make time for some OSU sightseeing, he said.

“I really want to take pictures of the football stadium,” Davis said. “I hear it’s one of the loudest in the country on game days. On the news this morning I heard you had the ‘Best Blank Band in the Land.’ Sorry, gotta keep it PG for the kids!”

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