BLACKFOOT — From the moment the booming voice of Ringmaster Brad Lee announced, “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” the crowd of over 750 sat on the edge of their seats for the 75th anniversary matinee show of the Carson and Barnes Circus.
There were the usual assortment of circus acts, from the opening parade saluting the United States with red, white and blue-clad performers, to the various animal acts, the enthusiastic and energetic crowd showed their approval with clapping and cheering.
Leading off the parade were the ‘guests’ of the Big Top, Kaileigh, Shamay and Brieana DeRoche, as the three sisters sat astride the elephants who lead the parade entering the center ring to the applause of the fans.
“We do about 250 days per year,” said Lee. “We very seldom have a day off, going seven days per week and two shows most days, with an occasional third show thrown in. The travel between towns is the toughest part of the whole deal.”
The shortest trip for the busy Carson and Barnes Circus will be between Blackfoot and Pocatello. Following the late show on Wednesday, the troupe broke down the tent, loaded everything onto the trucks and left by early morning only to set up again on Thursday at the Pine Ridge Mall in Pocatello.
“We have this down to a science,” said Lee. “We break every thing down and catch a few hours sleep, get up, travel and then have the show ready to go by early afternoon. Most locations will get a 4:30 and a 7:30 performance and then we do it all again.”
The Carson and Barnes Circus has the usual assortment of acts, from the elephants and camels, to the horse show and dog show, to the trapeze artists and high wire acts to an assortment of clowns and jugglers and acrobats.
The most popular act of all has to the irreverent and irrepressible ‘Alex’, a combination clown, entertainer and comedian.
“I have been with this circus for over five years now and I really like it the best of the shows that I have worked for,” said Alex, who hails from Columbia, South America. “I was with the big circus for a while, but this is better and gives me more freedom.”
The big show was both the Red and the Blue divisions of the famous Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. Alex has a brother that is still with the ‘big show’, but he has opted to be one of the true stars of the Carson and Barnes Circus rather than stifle his talents.
“I have so much more freedom to do things with this show than with any other circus,” said Alex. “This is home for me now and I love it.”
The brightest star of the show, Alex delighted the audience with his antics, playing off ringmaster Lee a number of times and lending his talent to several acts. His ability to entertain the crowd was shown with skits that included members of the audience, a trampoline solo, part of the trapeze act and his general comedic ability was apparent at all times.
The elephant act was the favorite of the crowd and drew cheers from every section as they stood and sat on their stools.
“We travel with four or five elephants for the show,” said Lee. “We keep about 30 elephants at our home base in Hugo, Okla., and we rotate the animals in and out while we are on the road to keep them healthy and fresh. We take exceptional care of all the animals in the show.”