How do you feel about the circus?
It's been a few years since we've gone but I've gotten chewed out by a few of my animal-loving friends for taking my kids to the circus. But I'm not so sure that my hamburger habit isn't a much worse offense against animals than making them dance for treats.
It was interesting to read this story by my colleague Mark Albright on the new generation of Feld family owners, specifically the 30-something daughters, who are taking over the business. In recent years they've added a preshow that lets the audience meet the performers and see how the animals are cared for. To cure fear of clowns, they show kids how they put on their makeup, so they recognize the person doing those unicycle stunts.
In Mark's interview with Kenneth Feld, the circus magnate said this:
"The animal extremists just want to shut us down, as well as all zoos. Once people find out what they really mean by animal rights, most agree with our vision of animal welfare and the people who care for them 24/7.
One of the best things we've established is our 200-acre elephant conservation center in Winter Haven. Except for 19 elephants on tour, that's where the rest of our herd of 54 (ages 7 to 65) lives for species research, captive breeding and retirement. We're responsible for almost half the endangered Asian elephant births in North America."
If you are a fan of the circus, you can see a free preview Monday when the Ringling Bros. circus train officially arrives in Tampa to get ready for Wednesday’s opening night. The animals and performers are expected to unload at 2:30 p.m. Monday next to Union Station. At 3 p.m. they begin the walk west on Cass Street, turn south on Morgan Street, east on Channelside Drive (in front of the St. Pete Times Forum), turn south on Old Water Street and parade around the back of the arena to the Animal Open House. Bring the family for this free sneak preview. Union Station is at 601 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa.
Starting Wednesday, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus begins its run through Jan. 9 at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 301-2500. Tickets are $15-$85.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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