Big Top Guns

Circuses seem to come through South Florida more often than most places, particularly in the winter months. Sure, it's probably just due to the weather more than any love of Florida audiences, but that doesn't mean one shouldn't take advantage of the thrills under the big top. And, in this case, that's one big big top.

The Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus is the largest circus in the world under one roof. Purchased from Florida State University by John Pugh in 1982, the show boasts several acts not seen in any other circus. Big cats such as lions and tigers are a common feature of circuses everywhere, but this one even includes a house cat's daring feats. The star of Valery Tsoraev's act culminates her part of the show with a 40-foot leap into the trainer's arms. An impressive accomplishment, considering how painful it is to get cats to do much of anything except use the litter box.

As with most circuses, the folks at Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. have a ready answer for all those PETA folks. Animals in circuses, given the amount of care that goes into making sure they are healthy and happy enough to perform, can live longer than they do in the wild or in other forms of captivity. Circus elephants usually live 60 years or more. Of course, that probably won't stop someone from painting himself in tiger stripes or chaining herself to the big top, but it's worth a shot.

Aside from all the horses, elephants, and cats of all sizes, the circus features a broad range of human acts. Perhaps the most unusual is Eli "The Raven" Pamoukov. A Bulgarian native who behind the scenes acts as the circus translator because she is fluent in Russian, Spanish, and English aside from her native language, she gets raised to the tent's roof by her hair. She performs a few aerial stunts while suspended from her locks before being shot out of a cannon. All in all, Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. boasts quite a few acts lacking in other circuses, which has assured it life where most have gone away.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney