By RIMSIE MCCONIGA
Circuses are becoming an endangered breed. But Leavenworth residents will get to spend time under the Big Top May 24 and 25 for 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. shows at the Leavenworth Plaza Shopping Center.
Jerry Collins continues to do advance marketing and contract bookings for the Carson and Barnes Circus and he says the circus has been playing to full houses in New Mexico recently and he thinks the chances are good that Leavenworth will see a similar turnout.
Carson and Barnes has been around for 80 years,” says Jerry. “Several circuses shut down in the last few months. I think there are only eight left in the U.S. You can take the entire family to the circus and not worry about profanity, or anything obscene. The owner of Carson and Barnes, Barbara Byrd travels a lot seeking the best possible acts.”
Barbara Byrd, her husband and daughters took ownership of the circus after the passing of her father, DR Miller. DR Miller started out in Smith Center, Kansas, with a pony and dog act.
Over the years, he turned this act into the world's largest "big top" circus. Corporate headquarters are now in Hugo, Oklahoma.
Jerry’s 35-year career at Kansas State Penitentiary, now Lansing Correctional Facility, was rewarding, challenging, and stressful at times. “I hope I contributed in helping some inmates to go home and live a better life,” says Jerry. “It was rewarding to me to receive two valor pins, in 1969 and 1978. It was a thrill to make a brief appearance in the movie "In Cold Blood,” filmed at the Kansas State Penitentiary in 1966.”
After Jerry’s retirement from Lansing Correctional Facility he bought an interest in a circus, which also provided rewarding, challenging and stressful times. “Sometimes we outran floods and dodged tornadoes. And of course we were always concerned about the safety of the performers.
In 2000, he sold his interest in the circus and started working for the large circuses, including Carson and Barnes.
Carson and Barnes raises thousands of dollars each year for charitable groups such as the Lions Club and many other fraternal organizations.
Jerry says several towns in the area were vying for Carson and Barnes to perform in their communities, but all the dates had been filled except May 24 and 25.
He jumped at the chance to fill those dates in Leavenworth. “I chose Leavenworth for these dates because this is my home. I want my children, grandchildren and friends to see an under the big top circus — possibly for the last time.”
The upcoming shows in Leavenworth will offer several new acts, including a dinosaur performance, “CircusSaurus.”
The world debut performance has been described as “at the dawn of a new day comes a new era under the Big Top, and those that were once extinct will re-emerge again – right before your eyes.”
Carson and Barnes describes the show as a transformation of the Big Top into a time machine and viewers will embark on an adventure of a lifetime.
The circus family says of the show, “Be amazed as dinosaurs shake the very ground we walk on. Our trio of Deinoychus – Rumble, Rascal and Rebel – will transport you back in time and show you why dinosaurs ruled the land. The extinct giants of the past and the endangered Asian elephants of today clash under the Big Top in this thrilling adventure.”
“The magic fast change act is even more impressive this year,” says Jerry. “The performing elephants will be here this year. The public will have the opportunity to ride the elephants, and part of the proceeds from the elephant rides will go to the Elephant Conservation in Hugo, Oklahoma.”
“Over the years, I have made many lasting friends throughout the circus world,” says Jerry. While traveling with the circus, I was in a different town daily. On show days the circus invited school groups and the public to come around 9 a.m. to see the bathing and feeding of the elephants, to mingle with the circus workers, and to observe the amazement of the big top tent going up.
“In the evening shows, it was a real pleasure to watch entire families enter the big top together with looks of awe and wonderment on their faces because of the excitement in the air.
“After the show, as they departed the big top, I made it a point to watch the crowd departing with happiness and excitement, especially on the children's faces. I am sure from the looks on their faces that what they had just witnessed will be a remembrance for years to come. Go to www.CarsonBarnesCircus.com to get a preview of the beautiful circus that is coming to Leavenworth.”
Ticket outlets in Leavenworth: China Buffet and Westlake Ace Hardware.