Big-top circus<br>coming to Tusayan
A vanishing segment of America’s past will make a stop in Tusayan this spring. The small, family-owned circus traveling this country’s rural back roads was once a common sight in the middle of the last century.
The Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce hopes local children, as well as adults who want to relive a childhood memory, will delight in a visit from the Culpepper and Merriweather Great Combined Circus.
"They contacted the chamber and said they were thinking about coming up our way and they had done a lot of work with chambers and small communities and the Grand Canyon seemed like a unique place to come," said the local chamber’s Greg Bryan. "They said ‘we’d like to see Grnd Canyon and share our acts and our great show with you.’"
The circus will arrive in Tusayan on April 11 for two 90-minute shows. After making the trip, they will raise the one-ring big top through the 200-year-old tradition of using elephant power, which can be a spectacle in itself. The shows will be staged that evening at 5 and 7 p.m.
"It will be a benefit fund-raiser for the chamber and for a local community project yet to be fully determined," Bryan said. "There will be pre-ticket sales, which will be the ones that will benefit the community the most because they’ll be the least expensive."
Bryan said he was glad to finalize arrangements for the circus to be in Tusayan on a Friday. Grand Canyon School does not hold classes on Fridays.
"It will be a great time for everybody to be here and the ticket sales will be a way to raise money for the community," said Bryan, who added that the circus had good references from other communities.
Culpepper and Merriweather, based out of Hugo, Okla., will perform in Camp Verde before arriving in Tusayan. The circus then moves on to Williams for shows on April 12 and will continue its northern Arizona tour after that with a trip to Page.
The small circus represents a disappearing but memorable part of growing up in a small town. Today, fewer than 10 traveling circuses still operate, moving from town to town with its assortment of recreational vehicles, trailers and trucks, just trying to make ends meet.
Throughout its circus season which runs from March through October, Culpepper and Merriweather will make more than 200 stops in small to mid-size communities.
The circus has gained some notoriety through the mass media with appearances on National Geographic’s Explorer television series, the Arts and Entertainment network and Entertainment Tonight, along with features in publications like the Los Angeles Time, Chicago Tribune and Arizona Highways Magazine.
Bryan said the circus is currently working on its lineup of animals and putting their acts together. In the past, the lineup has featured elephants, clowns and acrobats.
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