Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

October 26, 2009

The circus is in town

VALDOSTA — Travelers passing the Five Points Shopping Center in Valdosta had to do a double take Monday morning. Circus ponies were grazing on the lawn beside Wendy’s, as elephants and camels looked on a short distance away. The huge Cole Bros. Circus red and yellow tent towered in the background.

The speed at which the Coles Bros. Circus family assembles its alternate universe is part of their magic. It rises like an exotic oasis of foreign glamour and immemorial mystery. It takes 40 workers four to five hours to set up the big top and get everything ready, said Cole Bros. Circus Marketing Director Mario Vitale.

The big top is supported by six hydraulic towers, which rise slowly into the air. The tent is laced together in three sections, then raised to the top of the towers, Vitale said.

Ringmaster Chris Connors said Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars is the oldest big top show in America. This year marks their 125th anniversary. The circus was founded in 1884 by W. W. “Chilly Willy” Cole, Connors said. There never were any Cole brothers.

“Cole had a partner. Those were the days when Barnum & Bailey started out and everybody had to be bigger than everybody else. Mr. Cole didn’t want to call it a circus, so he called it Cole’s Colossal Show. Years later a father and son from Canada ... bought it and wanted to keep the Cole’s name, but make it more of a traditional circus, so they called it Cole Bros. Circus,” Connors said.

Among the acts featured during the Cole Bros. Circus’ Valdosta sojourn are a three-tier, seven man pyramid on the high wire — only two troupes in the world do this, Connors said. A handstand by the 10-year-old son of troupe leader Felix Toscano tops the pyramid. The boy holds a Guinness Book world record for this performance, Connors said.

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