Leader photo/JOHN EBY "Pirates of the Kellybean" Circus made a stop in Edwardsburg, showcasing not one, but two, elephants in the act.

Archived Story

Big-top circus wows Edwardsburg

Published 5:04pm Sunday, August 26, 2012

Though it might seem from “Pirates of the Kellybean” production that Kelly Miller Circus travels by ship, it takes 35 vehicles to move 96 employees from town to town.

“We have a school, a traveling kitchen, our own generators. All we require is water,” said office manager Tavana Brown, who choreographs pirate aerial ballet.

“We work seven days a week, two shows,” Brown said, including Middlebury, Ind., after appearing in Edwardsburg for the Lions Club. “When we go to Kelley’s Island in Sandusky, we have to take everything across on ferry boats. We start in Brownsville, Texas, in February, work our way all the way up to New Hampshire. Now, we’re turning around and heading to southeast Oklahoma (Hugo is home) to end our 38-week season on Oct. 25.”

The circus set up shop in 1938 in Hugo because it was warm, like Florida, but cheaper.

A half hour before the first two-hour show by “America’s one-ring wonder” under the bigtop, midway attractions open, including a bounce house, an oddity museum and pony, camel and elephant rides, which were popular with members of the Lions’ Leos.

Edwardsburg High School senior Kaylan Malone rode an elephant “when I was like 5,” but it’s a new experience for President Megan Halgren and sophomores Kaitlyn Kutz and Secretary Erika Howard.

Members of the Leos said they especially liked the aerial acrobatics, fretting the performers might fall.

Tiger tamer Ryan Holder opened the show with big cats which, under his command, hop over each other as if they were Winnie-the-Pooh’s Tigger.

Horn-playing clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs, who teamed up with Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, made their first appearance trying to deliver a large, fragile package to Ringmaster John Moss III, which diverts attention from the crew dismantling the tiger cage.

Aerial artistry by the Delara Duo at the apex of the arena cranes necks up to Delena Fusco of the Fusco family of South America and Sara Greene of North America.

Nest, Mike and Carolyn Rice, who have more than 60 years experience training animals, puts two camels and a zebra through their paces. She advances the buccaneer theme with a small ship, Ye Old Salty Dog, as Penelope Pirate and her Puppies of Penzance.

North Starlets, three dancers, perform ballet high in the “ship’s” rigging and ride elephants.

After a 20-minute intermission, Rebecca Ostroft, who appeared in the movie “Water for Elephants,” takes to the trapeze.

Raul Olivares’ hands are a blur of lightning-fast juggling. Silver bowling pins. Spinning balls. Hats flung like Frisbees. The fourth-generation performer from Gaudalajara, Mexico, also brings a stuffed lion to life.

The entire Argentinian Fusco family appears drumming, leading to the finale. Pirate choreographer Norberto, Susana, Natalia, Tatiana, Delena and Arwen, plus three of their six grandchildren travel with Kelly Miller.

Fifth-generation performer Julio Rosales and Deya have a daughter, Doricela, who is “Pirates of the Kellybean” mermaid.

Fridman Torales, who balances on planks teetering atop cylinders, grew up in his parents’ circus in Peru. John Ringling North II purchased Kelly Miller in 2006.

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