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Yesterday was the wife’s birthday.  As a present, we took Izzy to see the circus.  Since Jen is not a 6-year-old girl and has a “mild” clown phobia, you wouldn’t think this would be considered a great gift.  Truth is, it wasn’t really a gift at all; it just happened that the only day we could go was yesterday.  So we planned the little outing for just Iz, no Jakester.  We figured it would be fun for her to spend some time with just us; not to mention how much more relaxing it is for Jen and I when the parent to kid ratio is 2 to 1.  It’s like we can be half the parents we usually are and still get by.  Horray for slacking!

So we dropped Jake with Grammy and headed downtown.  As we walked from the parking garage to the arena, we passed several merchandise carts manned by people who could have very well been circus freaks themselves.  “Nuthin’ herr over $10!” They shouted at the crowd as we walked by. “You’ll pay 20-plus inside!”  I laughed as we passed them, unaware that these salesmen of the sidewalk were actually speaking the truth. 

A little shy of 2 ½ hours later, we left the building having just seen what can only be described as The Greatest Show on Earth…ON SPEED!!  Here are six things about the circus that I learned yesterday.

Not just clowns and elephants anymore

This ain’t your Grandpappy’s Barnum & Bailey.  I can’t remember the last time I was at the circus so going in, I was expecting the stereotype: 3 rings, a bunch of clowns, some elephants and tigers, and Bob’s your Uncle.  Somewhere between the laser light show and the cirque de’ what-the-hell-did-that-guy-just-do, I realized the old Ringling Brothers just kicked it up a notch.  Bam!

The circus does not discriminate.  I don’t care if you’re black, white, orange, or polka-dotted.  It doesn’t matter if you’re from the penthouse or the pig pen.  Dressed to the nines or your entire outfit cost $9.  The circus is a melting pot of humanity.  I’ve never seen such a diverse crowd of people in one place.  Imagine if you ate a county fair, a rock concert, and a martini bar.  What do you think it would look like when you inevitably threw it all up?  That’s right…the circus!

The venue that houses the circus is like a different country, where the dollar is extremely undervalued.  Whenever I go to a concert or sporting event, I know I am going to get gouged at the concessions and merch tents.  It’s just a fact of life.  Sure, I’ll pay $8 for 6oz of beer.  I mean what are my alternatives?  Not buy beer?  That’s ridiculous. 

But the circus is an entirely different animal.  The man with the 23’ pole full of cotton candy was asking for $14.  The dude recklessly wielding a tray of sno-cones (in a souvenir cup of course) was asking $12.  “What country are we in?” I rhetorically asked the gentleman behind me in the John Deere cap.  He looked puzzled for a moment, then proudly responded “Maryland”.  I sighed, nodded, and turned away.  In reality, I should be thanking the folks who set the prices at the circus.  If they had simply been inflated, like those at the other events I mentioned, I may have been tempted to buy something.  But seeing as they were so far beyond ridiculous, we managed to leave the circus with our checking account in tact.

Elephants are the straw that stirs the drink as far as Izzy is concerned.  Maybe she was just a little too young.  Maybe it was the fact that the show was right smack in the middle of her normal nap time.  Whatever the reason, the circus didn’t seem to keep Izzy’s attention as much as we anticipated.  Jen and I, on the other hand, were mesmerized for much of the show.  Knowing her love of elephants and not knowing her feelings about clowns just yet, we hyped the show as a big grey long-trunked Dumbo-fest!  Thankfully, the beasts made several appearances throughout the event.  During several portions however that were sans elephants, Izzy looked a little something like this.

"Wake me when the elephants come back."

The Ringmaster is the single greatest job of all the circus folk.  Sure, there’s the excitement of the Tiger tamer.  You’ve got the laughter and fun of the clowns as well.  And let’s not forget the midget; every good circus has a loveable midget.  But the real star of this show is the Ringmaster.  From what I can tell, this guy’s job is to ride around the arena on what looks like a tricked out chariot from Ben Hur.  He introduces each new act with a booming voice and from time to time, sings to the crowd.  He doesn’t even have to sing very well, since the band playing behind him practically drowns him out.  He doesn’t have to spend years perfecting a skill like the trapeze artists.  He doesn’t have to deal with the threat of injury or possibly death like the tiger tamer.  He just wears a top hat and jacket that appears to have been freshly Bedazzled by a 7th grade girl, and the audience loves him!  What a gig! 

When did motocross become a part of the circus…and man, that was freakin’ awesome!  About three-quarters of the way through the show, a giant metal sphere was wheeled out into the center ring.  My first thought was that American Gladiators had teamed up with Barnum & Bailey and we were about to see a new version of Altrasphere!  Instead, a bunch of dudes (and one chick) came flying out from behind a curtain on dirt bikes.  As they entered the “cage of death”, as I like to call it, Jen and I looked at each other as if to say, “are they really going to do what I think they’re going to do?”  And indeed they did.  First four bikes, then as many as seven at one time, raced around inside this metal sphere as if oblivious to their claustrophobic surroundings.  This was freakin’ awesome…seriously!

When all was said and done and we were in the car on the way home, we asked Izzy if she had fun.  Her response, “uh huh”, was enough to consider the event a success.  There’s a good chance she doesn’t remember anything other than the elephants, but that’s fine with us.  For Jen and I, it was an eye-opening experience we won’t soon forget.