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Circus brings ‘army’ and elephants, too, Sunday

August 27, 2010

BREMEN — When the Kelly Miller Circus comes to town Sunday, Aug. 29, at Sunnyside Park, it will bring the equivalent of a small army with it to raise the “big top,” water and feed the 24 animals, feed the crew, teach the children, and more.
It’s all part of being on the road with the old-fashioned circus, a traditionally tented circus, that’s been entertaining crowds across the country since 1938. That’s when founder Obert Miller and his two sons left their home in Kansas to start the outfit. They had a couple of monkeys, and moved from town to town in trucks.
This season, the Kelly Miller Circus will have traveled nearly 10,000 miles and performed in more than 200 cities and towns from March to October. The 3,912-square-foot big top, and the exotic animals and hard-working performers travel in six semi-trucks and 18 other vehicles just as the founder did.
And this circus continues the time-honored tradition of raising its tent with the aid of elephants, unlike others that have abandoned the practice in favor of heavy equipment operators. When the circus pulls into Bremen Sunday around dawn, elephants Viola, at 9,540 pounds; Libby, at 7,820 pounds, and Nina, at a slim 6,520 pounds, will be among the first to unload, receive breakfast and water. That’s because their strength will be needed around 9 a.m. after men drive in the stakes for the big tent. The elephants will then help them lift the giant tent into the air.
You’ll want to get there around 8:30 a.m. to see the preparations, as four main poles — and they’re massive — are set in place. You’ll be invited to step into the tent to see the crew and the elephants complete the set up. Feel free to ask questions of the knowledgeable circus veteran who will be on hand to tell everyone about circus life.
And, for those who might have concerns about the animals traveling with the circus, spokesmen for the group said Kelly Miller Circus is “deeply committed to the humane treatment” of all animals, not just its own.
“We do not tolerate cruelty in the training of our animals,” a written release from the circus says. “It would be difficult, if not impossible, to conduct a performance schedule that spans eight months with exhibitions in over 200 communities if our animals are nervous or cowering in fear. The relationships between our handlers and the animals are rooted in trust and would be impossible to maintain in an atmosphere of abuse and cruelty.”
The circus is a member of the Endangered Ark Foundation, and its elephants participated in the EAF’s breeding program that resulted in the first live birth of an Asian elephant in Oklahoma in September, 1998.
“Our animals are an important part of our circus family and we have strong emotional bonds with them,” the release states. “Economically, they represent major financial investments and it defies logic to think that we would intentionally harm or mistreat them. We appreciate the public’s concern for them, also, and invite everyone to come see these magnificent animals on Circus Day in their communities.”
Show times are 2 and 5:30 p.m. Children 12 and under, when accompanied by an adult, will be admitted free. Tickets will be available at the gate prior to both performances. Look for the new featured act, Lady Nikita, an extreme aerialist from Australia who’s performing for the first time in America, and the Poema Family from Argentina, as well as dancing camels, and other great performers.

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