The Big Top is coming to the Friendly City for the first time in almost 25 years, complete with elephants, performers, a unicorn and even dinosaurs.
Carson & Barnes Circus, an organization based out of Hugo, Oklahoma, will present “Circus Saurus” with two showtimes – 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – Oct. 10 at Hinton Park, behind Petal Civic Center at 214 South Main Street in Petal.
“Carnes & Barnes is a big-city production for the little towns, and they’ve always worked like this,” ringmaster Erik Bautista said. “They’ve been open for 83 years, and they’ve always done it the same way – going to the outside, not the big cities.
“We don’t get to do Dallas, Chicago, Houston – nothing like that. There are kids that don’t have the opportunity to go to the big cities to see the elephants, so you can see them in your home town.”
The show, which is two hours long, features performers like acrobats, aerialists, flying trapeze artists, clowns and jugglers, along with a petting zoo on site. Asian elephants also will perform, and a trio of Deinonychus – named Rumble, Rascal and Rebel – will entertain the crowd.
“This is an old-fashioned circus – I can safely say it’s the last of its kind,” Bautista said. “It’s the circus under the Big Top, with clowns, jugglers, elephants, trapeze artists, acrobats – we got it all.
“Plus, it’s a fantasy world for the kids. The kids love unicorns and dinosaurs, and we’re going to incorporate that into the show and the production.”
Advance tickets are $14 for adults and $6 for children, and can be purchased by calling (580) 743-7292, by visiting www.bigtopshow.com, or at El Mariachi Loco on East Central Avenue. Tickets can also be purchased at the box office, which opens two hours prior to the first show, at a cost of $20 for adults and $12 for children.
In addition to the actual shows, a free “elephant shower” event will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 10, an hour and a half before the first show. During the shower, participants will be able to watch handlers give each elephant its daily bath, which requires approximately 500 gallons of water and a gallon of special soap.
“You can just show up, and we encourage people to come on out, because you don’t see this every day; it’s a behind-the-scenes type of thing,” Bautista said. “You hardly ever see elephants at the circus.
“We wash them every day, so it’s a regular routine for the trainers, and it’s a perfect time for them to get hands-on inspections with their animals. We want everyone to be part of it. The fire department will be helping us wash the elephants.”
Carson & Barnes Circus, which last visited Petal in 1995, was instituted as a “dog and pony show” in 1937 in Smith Center, Kansas. Since then, the circus – under four generations of the Miller family – has presented more than 30,000 performances across North America, reaching millions of attendees.