BROOKSVILLE — The big top is coming to town, and big it is — nearly a city-block long, its peak rising some 50 feet.
There are 2,200 seats from which visitors can watch with unobstructed views some 100 performing animals, both exotic and domestic, and human performers in the air and on the tanbark.
The Kiwanis Club of the Nature Coast is bringing Carson & Barnes Circus, one of the largest tented traveling attractions of its kind in the United States, to the Hernando County Fairgrounds for shows at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
"This is going to be our primary fundraiser," Kiwanis spokeswoman Patricia Herrmann said. "It's good family fun."
When the Spring Hill Kiwanis Club booked this circus two years ago, Herrmann said, "We saw it, and it was amazing."
Featured will be acrobats, trapeze and high-wire artists, contortionists, jugglers, clowns, motorcycle actors, performing elephants, big cats, camels, horses, prancing ponies and dogs.
"We are proud of our large and varied educational exhibit of over two dozen types of … animals," the circus' website states. "Open as a zoo on circus morning, it's free to everyone who wants to watch the animals arrive, be watered, fed and cared for."
Herrmann said the free opportunity, from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, will include the sight of elephants raising the big top.
Food concessions will be available with no item priced more than $3. Fliers distributed throughout the county and to schoolchildren include discount coupons for treats.
Carson & Barnes, founded in 1937 in Kansas, is a family-owned and operated enterprise. It winters in Hugo, Okla., and first came to Florida two years ago. Appearances are scheduled from Brooksville to Tallahassee.
The circus, which relies on local sponsorships, helped civic and social clubs raise more than $500,000 last year, according to media representative Mal Knopf.
From advance ticket sales, the Kiwanians will receive about 25 percent of gate admissions, Herrmann said. On the other hand, the club's share of day-of-show sales is minimal, she added.
A dozen advance ticket outlets are listed on the club's website, kiwanisnaturecoast.org.
The Nature Coast Kiwanians organized last July with 25 members and has grown to 37. Its mission, along with the rest of Kiwanis, is to raise money for children's charities.
So far, the Nature Coast club has made small donations to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hernando County and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Yet to be distributed, Herrmann said, is about $2,200 raised at a music festival in March.
Herrmann noted that in lieu of paying rent for the circus staging site, all of the club members turned out recently to do maintenance work at the fairgrounds.
Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]