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I love the circus! From a young girl to a senior citizen, that attraction has never diminished. The colorful tents, exotic costumes and daredevil feats beckoned me with a magnetic force of undeniable proportions.

Throughout my childhood years, the summer circus visits were highly anticipated and longingly awaited. The posters invited every age from near and far to come enjoy the myriad attractions. And we did!

The performance location of the yearly trips was very near my father’s place of business so we got to see all the preparations unfold: from the huge tents to the food trucks and other vehicles, transporting and unloading the magical show. Once the circus gates were opened the scents of popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs and candy apples filled the air, making it impossible to resist.

Watching the high-wire acts was a special draw for me — holding my breath until the performers were safe after swinging from post to post and walking across the tent on a teeny, tiny wire.

My undying love still exists today, but when I heard in January the “Greatest Show on Earth” was permanently closing this spring, I was shocked and could not believe it was truly happening. I knew the circus had gone through problems and difficulties, but I thought it would survive.

So when a trip to my son’s home was planned this winter, I started checking the circus schedule near where he lived. Charlotte, N.C. happened to be on the schedule, and that was about an hour away. 
 
A double purpose evolved as I realized my grandkids had never been to the circus, making it a special time for all of us — the first and last time to go to the circus.

The “Greatest Show on Earth” did not disappoint — the storyline for the afternoon performance was an adventure in outer space, and it truly was out of this world. Our grandkids were mesmerized by the show and all that was going on. My husband tagged along, not really sold on the whole idea, but guess who was enthralled through most of the show? He especially enjoyed the lions and tigers breathtaking performances.

While it was held indoors and not in the classic tent, the magic was still there — the high-wire precision, goofy clowns in silly cars, and animal acts including dogs of all sizes, llamas, pigs (yes, pigs), and motorcycle riders. It was hard to watch it all, as was always the case of the three-ring circus, but this was more like two rings with an outer space venue above the floor.

Of course the indoor venue was amazing, but I couldn’t help but think of the classic tent that has been put away for good. I will never forget years of watching it being set up for a spring festival when my children were young. At that time in the 1980s, I taught middle school. The location of the circus at the local park was within walking distance of the school. Needless to say, many of us turned it into a learning experience and took the children to watch the elephants raise the tent — something most had never seen before and now no one will ever see again. The animals and trainers worked in sync to raise the huge tent to lofty heights. The bystanders cheered as the tent towered above us all.

I realize it is a way of life that could not continue in our modern world, but for years, many were entertained and have lasting memories that will endure.

Our grandkids summed it up in the best possible way — they could not pick a favorite part of the circus because they loved it all!

Frances Lowe

Frances Lowe is a retired journalist and educator, most recently serving as lifestyles editor at a local newspaper.

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