Circus offers family feel

By Abby Morris
star staff

  While "The Greatest Show on Earth" may seem to be just a show to members of the audience, to the performers and crew of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus' Hometown Edition they are more than just a show, they are like a family.
  According to Brian Newman, the production manager for the Hometown Edition, the 128 members of the group pitch in to help with everything from traveling to setting up for the show to watching the children.
  "That's the very unique thing about the show, everyone works together all the time," Newman said. "We're a family. We're like a small little town that just has a different zip code each week."
  Members of the group joke and kid around with each other, give each other nicknames and the performers even teach other members of the group and the children who travel with the circus how to do some of their tricks from their acts, according to Newman. "When I started with the circus I could not do any of these things but now I can balance an umbrella on my chin quite well," he said as he laughed, but he added that he had no plans to leave the management side of the show to go into performing.
  For several of the performers, entertaining the crowd is a family affair. "We have some performers who are seventh generation circus performers," Newman said. "And if you add all the generations together, there are over 100 generations of experience in the show."
  In addition to the many generations of experience, some of the performing acts for the show are really family, such as the daredevil Espana family and the high-flying Tabares family. In other cases, performers and crew members may be related by blood or marriage. "And those of us who aren't technically related feel like we are at this point," Newman said.
  According to Newman, the closeness of the group makes life on the road easier. "We'll do 59 cities in 44 weeks," he said. "We do a lot of two cities in one week like we did this week (when the show was in Bristol and Johnson City)."
  To get the 128-person group to all of those cities, the Hometown Edition uses 47 recreational vehicles (RVs) and 20 tractor-trailer trucks. "That's what it takes to get us from town to town," Newman said.
  The Hometown Edition of the world famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus differs from the larger productions the circus conducts. The Hometown Edition is a one-ring circus as opposed to the traditional three-ring circus, but that does not mean those who attend will not get to see an evening of non-stop and action packed entertainment.
  "The Hometown Edition is specifically designed to go into the smaller venues and the smaller towns," Newman said, adding that many towns do not have a venue that would support a full three-ring circus. "In some cities there is just no where to park a mile long train and that is what the big show travels on, a mile long train."
  Also, the size of the Hometown Edition also allows the circus to go to towns where they have never been able to go to before to perform. "This year I'm going to see 59 cities, many of which I've never been to before," Newman said.
  This is the first year that Ringling Brothers has produced a show like the Hometown Edition.
  Today will be the closing performances of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus' Hometown Edition in Johnson City at Freedom Hall with shows and 1 and 5 p.m.