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Big top rises for high-end horse show 'Cavalia'

TAMPA — What weighs 45,000 pounds, spans 26,264 square feet and takes seven semitrailer trucks to transport? The white big top tent of Cavalia, billed as the largest touring tent in the world.

In rose in just 10 minutes Tuesday at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

"I have goose bumps every time it goes up," said Normand Latourelle, founder of Cavalia and co-founder of Cirque du Soleil.

Cavalia is an equestrian performing arts show that premieres March 12 in Tampa.

On Tuesday, 50 people worked to erect the tent — 20 Cavalia specialists and 30 laborers from the Tampa community. The massive structure went up without a hitch.

"We've been very lucky," Latourelle said. "It's the 40th time I've seen it go up."

Preparation to raise the tent started Friday. Workers had to level the ground using 2,500 tons of rock, sand and other material — about 100 truckloads — before the big top could be laid out. Stakes plunged up to 12 1/2 feet into the ground help support the tent, Latourelle said.

Once the big top tent was taut and ready to go up, a simple press of a button triggered four electric motors that pulled the canvas into position.

The tent will house more than 2,000 auditorium seats, a 210-foot-wide projection screen and a 160-foot stage, the width of a football field.

A traditional circus tent has masts that extend 50 to 60 feet high and 40 feet apart. The Cavalia big top tent has four masts extending 110 feet high and 75 square feet apart, creating 2.5 million cubic feet, enough room for the horses to run and stop, said Duncan Fisher, Cavalia tour manager.

"To up and move every time is quite an endeavor," he said.

Underneath the big top Tuesday morning at the Florida State Fairgrounds, workers pull the plastic sheeting used to protect the tent from the ground and keep it clean for Cavalia. The tent is 110 feet tall and covers 30,000 square feet.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Underneath the big top Tuesday morning at the Florida State Fairgrounds, workers pull the plastic sheeting used to protect the tent from the ground and keep it clean for Cavalia. The tent is 110 feet tall and covers 30,000 square feet.

If you go

An eclectic show

What: Cavalia features

12 breeds of horses,

35 artists, acrobats,

dancers and riders

performing to live music.

When: March 12-21.

Where: Florida State

Fairgrounds, Interstate 4

at U.S. 301, Tampa.

Tickets: $44.50 to $189.50, general; some discounted rates available for children and seniors. For information, visit www.cavalia.net or call toll-free 1-866-999-8111.

Big top rises for high-end horse show 'Cavalia' 02/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 11:25pm]
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