Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Weekend at the Circus

Melha Shrine Circus Parade
There is something charming and nostalgic about the circus. It is ageless entertainment for the whole family. Apart from The Big E’s Circus Spectacular, I have never been to a classic three-ring circus that I can remember, so I had a great time checking out the Melha Shrine Circus last weekend.

It was Melha’s 60th year, so we wanted to help them do it up big. In anticipation for the event, I went over to the Coliseum to take some pictures of the set-up. The cheerful environment was contagious – everyone was extremely friendly and excited to be there. I got to meet some Shriners clowns (behind the makeup) and also a few of the performers, including the tigers and their trainer who came all the way from Texas.

And let me tell you, those tigers are treated like kings. A lot of people seem to have a misconception of animals in the show business, but the animals I have encountered while working at The Big E are completely pampered. They have first-class living quarters, even nicer than my own animals I have on the farm. After all, they are pets and their owners love them.

Anyways, later that evening a parade was held to kick off the first showing of the circus. The route went along Memorial Avenue from ESE Gate 9 to Gate 5 and then into the Coliseum. There was a great turnout and luckily it was the first beautiful day West Springfield has seen in a while.

Piccadilly Circus kids in front of
Storrowton Village Museum's Meetinghouse
The circus life is fascinating. It is made up of generations upon generations of families. Mom, dad and the kids all travel and perform together. So, while they were here last Friday, some of the Piccadilly Circus kids took a tour in Storrowton. I was able to shoot some pictures of them in the historic village and then went over to the Coliseum afterwards to check out a special presentation of the show.

While I was sitting up in the audience taking photos, one of the performers, Johnny Rockett, came into the crowd. He was running up and down the grandstands high-fiving circus goers as he went. I thought, “What a great photo opportunity,” and started snapping pictures when he was several feet away. Before I knew it, I was being plucked from my seat and dragged into the spotlight.

If you haven’t seen him before, Johnny does a clown-like comedic routine with a hairdo that sticks up about a foot high. I saw him perform last year at The Big E, so although his act had changed, I had a pretty good idea what my fate would be from the beginning.

Johnny Rockett with his two lovely assistants
Another male victim and I had to mimic what Johnny did and then assist with his plate spinning act – both of us in maid outfits with feather dusters. Johnny stuffed balloons in the guys shirt and gave him a blonde wig so we would match.

His act was quite challenging to do in my work attire, especially since I was wearing high heels that kept piercing into the plastic matting on the ground. Lucky for me, the Marketing department came down to document the moment. Admittedly though, it was really fun. I left after my 15 minutes of fame and ended up going back to see the full show Saturday evening.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Johnny Rockett and the beautiful Tina Winn, Galaxy Girl. Both have been Big E entertainment icons in years past and will be coming back to The Big E Circus Spectacular again this year for an exciting performance together – Cybertrons.

Normally the duo performs the stunt outside, but they expect it to be way more incredible under the Big Top. “It’s a spectacular thing – visually it’s a cool act, but I think it’s going to be at a whole different level in that tent,” Johnny said. “It’s completely different once it’s indoors, with the lighting and the smoke and the fireworks – it really is. I've personally never done it in a tent like that, so it will be new for me too.”

In a nutshell, the act consists of a motorcycle rotating a trapeze as it rides around on a circular platform rigging at high speed. “They've never had anything like that – they've never had an apparatus of that magnitude in that tent as part of a free show at The Big E. It is definitely going to leave a mark for sure,” Johnny said.

Galaxy Girl has worked here many times and I was lucky enough to get to work in the circus last year. So up until now, there’s been Galaxy Girl and there’s been Johnny Rockett but this will be the first time we’ll actually be teaming up together and doing something at The Big E,” he said.

Also joining Johnny and Tina in The Big E Circus Spectacular will be comedian Rob Torres, contortionist Kevin Sadrak, some acrobatic house cats and many more exciting acts to be announced!

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