America’s largest traveling big-top tent spectacle made a stop in Tahlequah on Monday as part of this year’s eight-month tour.
For 75 years, the Carson & Barnes Circus family of performers has been bringing wonderment and excitement to circus goers all over the country. Circus fans were able to enjoy two shows at the Highway 62 New Life Worship Center location before the event rolled on to other areas of the state before heading to Texas.
The event was sponsored by Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to the area charity.
Hula hoop and Spanish web act performer Jacqueline said people who have never attended a Carson & Barnes event will notice a global influence in the American show, which features clowns, acrobats, aerial daredevils, pageantry, and a cast of performing animals led by the Asian elephants.
“I guess what makes it different [from other circus shows is] here, they have people from all over the world – Peru, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the United States,” she said. “It’s an American circus, but it has international people in the show.”
The 18-year-old performer grew up in Peru, where her family had a circus that traveled to locations like Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. She has been with the Carson & Barnes company for the past six years.
“My family has a circus in Peru, and [Carson & Barnes] hired us from there. This is the first one in the United States [for my family],” said Jacqueline. “I’m [a] third generation [circus performer], also. You’re family is the circus, and you live in the circus. There are probably hundreds here we travel with. They’re pretty much your family, because you’re with them for eight months of the year.”
The traveling company of entertainers, stunt-oriented artists and trained animals has had four generations of family tour as part of the traditional big-top event, and Carson & Barnes owner Barbara Miller-Byrd is the third generation of her family to run the circus. Though she has more than 60 years experience being on the road as a performer and owner, Miller-Byrd remains in awe of the circus big top.
“I remember getting on my first pony after I started walking,” she said. “Seriously, I never considered doing anything other than being a part of the family business, but in those early days no one imagined a woman would ever be the boss in a male-dominated business like ours.”
“Alex the Clown” Acero is this season’s star of the show, and like many of the performers, Acero has spent his life as a circus performer, headlining shows in Las Vegas and several of Latin America’s largest circuses.
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