CHARLESTOWN - There is an analogy that people often use to describe something that is out of control. When a certain situation has a person overwhelmed or befuddled, but still provides entertainment value, they will say it is like the circus.
For example: An overcrowded waiting room, a supermarket the morning of the super bowl, or the traffic on Route 4 North after a nice beach day, may be described as a circus, or circus-like. It is not a comfortable feeling to be caught up in the middle of mayhem.
This analogy has its merit. The circus is full of outrageous and mind-boggling sights that one can only see at, well, the circus. People taming wild animals, or defying the laws of gravity, or even swallowing fire, are all common sights to be seen at the circus. This is why it is easy to compare it to the strange, or shocking occurrences of real life.
However, when one takes a step back, and can admire the mayhem from a safe distance and a comfortable seat, it is truly a sight to behold. The circus, in my best definition, is magnificently outrageous. I learned this first hand when I attended the Kelly Miller Circus at Ninigret Park in Charlestown on the hot afternoon of Friday, July 8.
Having not seen a circus since I was about knee-high, I really did not know what to expect. I knew there would be elephants and clowns and trapezes, but I could not fathom the manner in which they would be used. When I took my seat in the bleachers under the tent and looked inwards towards the ring, I almost forgot where I was.
Have you ever seen a tiger roll over like a puppy or hop on two feet like a kangaroo? The very first act after the show’s musical welcome was animal trainer Casey McCoy controlling a group of the biggest, most intimidating cats on the planet like they were puppets on a string. At any moment I thought one of the tigers could get hungry and McCoy would be done for, but they behaved like house pets and followed his every order.
One lesson that I quickly came to learn about the circus is that it can stimulate the extremes of human emotion. One moment I was fearing for the life and limbs of a man in a cage with a group of tigers, and the next I was watching a clown being chased by his own pants, laughing like I was watching a real life cartoon.
While the renegade pants eventually got the better of the clown, the circus crew had removed the cage walls from the ring in a swift and efficient fashion. Evidently they now thought it was safe to eliminate the barrier between the audience and the act because the tigers were gone. However, it was not safe in there for everyone, especially the amazing acrobat Fridman Torales, who walked upside-down on hanging rings 30 feet above the unforgiving Earth below.
At this point, the show had only been going on for a brief 20 minutes or so, and I thought that I had seen it all. Boy, was I wrong.
Mike and Carolyn Rice, animal trainers with a combined 60 years experience, officially blew my mind, or what was left of it. In the small ring, which is only 41 feet in diameter, four large camels danced under the direction of Mike Rice. It may be difficult to visualize this sight, but I am here to tell you that I witnessed camels engaging in a dance routine that would be far too complicated for me to learn. I can only describe it as choreographed madness.
Once I scraped my lower jaw off the ground below me, I think I finally began to take in an appreciation for what I was witnessing. While I was flabbergasted and dumfounded at what was unfolding before my eyes, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most entertaining experiences of my life.
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