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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Carson and Barnes brings circus magic to town

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Missouri Delta Medical Center patient Billy Joe Wilson tries his hand at a magic trick with the help of Jerry "Professor Carson" Milligan and Pat "Barnesy" Milligan.
SIKESTON -- The Carson and Barnes 5-Ring Circus is riding into Sikeston Sept. 9 and setting up at the Jaycee Rodeo grounds.

"We are the oldest 5-ring show in the nation," said ringmaster Roy Ordaz. "We're the last big traditional circus with a full range of animals and performers."

Carson and Barnes Circus consists of 16 separate 5-ring displays, featuring over 40 acts by people from the United States, Canada, Ukraine, Belarus, Peru, Mexico, Italy, the Netherlands and other parts of the world, Ordaz said.

"We have five rings of continuous and nonstop action," Ordaz said. "We have more elephants and more wild performers than any other circus."

Carson and Barnes is the only 5-ring circus on the road, Ordaz pointed out. It has approximately 60 human performers who participate in several acts ranging from aerial, acrobatic, juggling and clown.

On the day of the circus, adults and children can come early between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. to see over 100 animals up close and free.

One of the most interesting and entertaining aspects of the circus is setting everything up, Ordaz said, adding that the public is invited to witness the elephants raising the tent, which is as long as a football field.

"We'll begin setting up the 'Big Top' around 9 a.m.," Ordaz said. "A lot of people like to watch it go up. They go wild while the elephants pull the tent up over their heads."

Visitors can return for the 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. shows to enjoy the grand parade; acrobats and trapeze artists; clowns and performers; lots of performing elephants, lions, camels, dogs and horses; "Jennie," the star baby elephant; and a lot more.

As ringmaster of the 5-ring circus, Ordaz's job is to pace the performance, he said.

"During the show, I'm constantly doing something to make it move smoothly," Ordaz explained. "I judge the audience and try to read what they like, and it helps me to determine whether or not to cut an act. I also call attention to things going on in the show."

And living in a "city that moves at night" does take its toll on the Carson and Barnes crew, Ordaz admitted. Circus members are in a different town each day, seven days a week from mid-March through mid-November, he said.

"Well, you do get tired, but you have to pace yourself," said Ordaz, Ordaz, who's been with Carson and Barnes for six years and 15 years in the circus business.

The first American circus dates back to 1792, when John Bill Rickets, America's first circus showman, opened his one-ring equestrian exhibit in a performance building in Philadelphia, Penn. It was modeled after the first true circus, which originated in England in 1778.

Carson and Barnes was founded in 1937 by a father, Obert, and his two sons, Kelly and Dores, also known as D.R.). D.R. survives as the head of the family that operated this 5-ring circus for over 60 years. Today, his daughter, Barbara, and her husband, Geary Byrd, operate the Carson and Barnes Circus.

"We have more performers and animals -- more elephants, giraffes, zebras than anyone. People can feed the kids. We've got cotton candy, snow cones, and other food. It's just a great time," Ordaz said.

Ticket prices before circus day are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Prices at the box office are $14 for adults and $7 for kids. Discount tickets are available at the U.S. Bank, Wal-Mart, First Security State Bank and the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce.

While the Carson and Barnes Circus has visited Sikeston before, Ordaz reminds area residents it will be another two years before their circus makes its way back to the area. This is because of Barnes and Circus' predetermined traveling schedule, he explained.

"I just hope everybody comes out to watch," Ordaz said about the upcoming circus visit. "It's going to be a lot of fun."