Circus comes to town

By Judi Gatson - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Ringling Brothers train rolled into the Capital City this week.

It's more than 5,000 feet long and includes four animal cars, 32 living coaches, two storage cars, 19 flat beds, one pie car, two generator cars and one shop and repair car.

It's quite an impressive operation, especially once you meet the interesting cast of characters.

It's full of glitz and glamour and lots of surprises. The cast of 350 showcases talent from all around the globe. Each has his or her own story about running away with the circus. "I was actually studying for an opera career, believe it or not," said Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson.

For Iverson, a chance audition 13 years ago led to him being the first African American ringmaster. "We created the greatest show on earth because you're the greatest audience on Earth," said Iverson.

The decision landed him on a stage bigger than he imagined where he puts on a high energy performance every night. "I don't do back flips," said Iverson, "I don't walk on wires. I don't get in a 16 ft sphere on a motorcycle, but what I do do is make all of those things come to life."

Before he was roped in, Andre McClain was a third generation cowboy. He's been setting it off with the pre-show for eight years, getting the party started right. "The audience can come down on the arena floor, try on costumes, get autographs," said McClain.

"We mix a little bit of old school circus with a little bit of new," said McClain, "And this is the greatest show. "

Then there's Miguel Angel Juan. As a little boy growing up in Puerto Rico, he always dreamed of clowin' around. "I love being out on the ring and making people smile and laugh," said Juan.

But at times, living on the road and traveling from town to town can even get a clown down. "Yes, it gets to be a little bit difficult when you're not with your wife or your loved ones, but we put all of that aside when we put our makeup on," said Juan, "When a clown glues his nose on and you go out into the ring, all of these things are a thing of the past."

When they hit the center ring, it's about giving the audience a show to remember.

This year's show, The Funundrum, is all new. The circus runs through Sunday at the Colonial Life Arena. Tickets start at $16.

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