‘Biggest ever’ Showman’s circus under the big top next week

Published on: December 27, 2012

Mitch Traphagen File Photo

Mitch Traphagen File Photo


GIBSONTON — Sweet and salty aromas of cotton candy and roasting peanuts accented with the pungent fragrance of fresh wood shavings, shapely young aerialists floating without apparent effort under the big top, a large contingent of tuneful musicians, prancing animals performing on command, clowns in colorful getup – all of these tasty, awesome, happy, goofy features are on tap next week when the 30th annual Showmen’s Association Charity Circus takes over their event center here.

This year, three non-stop action shows are scheduled on Saturday, January 5, beginning at 1 p.m., according to C.M. Christ, promotions coordinator. The second production is set for 4 p.m. and the third at 7 p.m., he added, with the midway open one hour before each show.

Staged annually by the association on grassy acreage at its headquarters, 6915 Riverview Drive, the event incorporating all the sights, sounds and smells of the traditional circus is the organization’s largest fund raiser of the year, Christ noted. And because all of the components of the circus are donated, all of the monies it generates can be contributed to such organizations as the Mary Martha House in Ruskin and children’s hospitals. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been contributed to organizations caring for youngsters, due to the generosity of the people who come together to produce the circus and the audience attending each year, he said.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the entrance, with children under 12 admitted free with coupons available at various business sites around the South County area and when accompanied by a paying adult. Parking is free.

The 2013 edition of the Showmen’s circus includes a variety of popular acts returning due to demand, plus new features, Christ noted. For example, Jack Cooke’s Comedy Cars again are in the line-up, as are the kid-friendly performing pigs, and so are Wayne Franzen’s trained elephants.

Performing horses and dogs, along with more exotic animals like camels as well as llamas, also are expected to be in the ring. Then, there are the aerial artists at home swinging overhead from trapeze to trapeze, plus tumblers and jugglers and clowns galore, he added. Justin Loomis, from St. Petersburg, is to be the ringmaster.

The circus has grown with each successive year and in 2013 will feature the largest circus band to be found in any similar show, noted Lee Stevens, event coordinator. This assembly of talented musicians will provide at least one concert “of real circus music,” he added.

As for those things “yummy, yummy and good for the tummy,” Christ said the midway menu includes popcorn, snow cones, sodas, cotton candy, candy apples, peanuts, hot dogs, hamburgers, and more.

The proud history of the circus featuring uncommon animals and human feats of strength began in the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Romans. The extravaganzas continued to evolve and the modern circus with its wide variety of acts has been described by historians since the mid-19th century in Europe, according to Wikipedia authorities.

However, the Showmen’s circus is one of only a half dozen under the big top left in the United States, Stevens said. One of the reasons it is an anticipated event each year, he suggested, is the “intimacy,” the connection between performers and audience under the tent. “The audience is within about 50 feet of the show ring; performers can look into the eyes of their audience, and the connection is great for both,” he said.

The Showmen’s circus also has become multi-generational on both sides of the ring, Stevens added, with many of the performers now second generation and third generation audience members in the seats. The annual show appeals to both the returning seniors for whom it brings back fond memories of youth and to youngsters getting caught up in the silliness and the action for the first time, he said.

The upcoming production is shaping up to be “the biggest show we’ve ever had,” Christ said, adding “normally it’s a packed house.”

Tickets can be purchased in advance from “Fish Stuff” in Gibsonton’s Twin Oaks Plaza, at the “Paradise Pet Salon” in the Riverview Plaza in the northwest corner of U.S. 301-Gibsonton Drive, M&M Printing/Observer News office, 210 Woodland Estates Ave. SW, Ruskin, and at the Showmen’s club on Riverview Drive, east of U.S. 41.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson