As the Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars ringmaster, Chris Connors knows his acts well.
It is his booming northern New York voice that introduces the aerial artists, the human cannonball, baby elephant Hugo, the hand-balancing act, white tigers, the Colombian highwire artists — all within the “world’s largest circus under the big top.” All playing Valdosta for six performances next week.
Connors identifies himself as one of the performers. After all, for the past 12 years, from the Cole Bros.’ first to last act, he’s in the ring throughout the show. But on his contract, the occupation of performance director is listed above ringmaster.
In addition to the booming voice, the colorful costumes, the stage presence and personality, he really is the man leading the show. He manages getting the acts from point A to point B during the 90-minute show, but he’s also the person who must direct workers in preparing the big top for each performances, sweeping up the dropped popcorn from the afternoon show to ready the venue for the evening audience, seeing that people have their tickets and find their seats.
The circus is 27 show trucks, a caravan of house trailers, the transportation of animals which are owned by individuals with individual contracts with the circus. These vehicles will arrive in Valdosta, stopping at Five Points late this weekend, before the raising of the massive, colorful big-top tent Monday morning.
It’s a traveling town, a traveling family, and as ringmaster, Chris Connors is the father figure.
The circus has been his family throughout his life. His parents were part of Circus Fans of America. Connors tells stories of circus greats watching out for him all the way back to his infancy.
While the non-circus world can attract a young adult who has already spent a lifetime in the circus, it’s difficult to leave.
“You try to shake it out of your system, but the sawdust is in your veins ... the circus bug bites you,” he says.
To live the circus life, the circus must be one’s life. Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars begins touring each year in mid-March and continues through November shortly before Thanksgiving. In the off-season, Connors continues working for the circus but he takes vacations back home to New York and Connecticut.
He’s even taken a vacation to visit friends who work for another circus.
“People couldn’t believe I would take my vacation and spend it with another circus,” Connors says. “But I didn’t have to work. I could just watch and enjoy. ... The circus is my hobby, my job, my life.”
Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars plays.
When: 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 28-30.
Where: Five Points Shopping Center, off North Ashley Street, Valdosta.
More information: Visit www.gotothecircus.com