SURREY — The circus arrived in town this week for a series of Spectac! shows in a big-top tent at Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
The yellow and red structure, set up on a gravel lot off 64th Avenue, north of the Stetson Bowl, houses Royal Canadian Family Circus for seven performances from Friday to Sunday (May 5 to 7).
Spectac! features high-wire acts, Liberty horses, clowns, acrobats, a motorcycle “Cyclone” act, dancing poodles and more.
No exotic animals are featured in the circus, noted Cathy Sproule, the tour’s media director.
Some 2,700 people can be seated inside the big top, which arrived on Tuesday along with all the stuff needed to put on a circus.
Close to five dozen people, including 24 performers, travelled here with the show, which is in Surrey as a starting point for a Canadian tour.
Ringmaster Joseph Dominick Bauer, who lives in Florida, talked to the Now-Leader on the phone from Joplin, Missouri, where the whole production “winters” prior to going on tour each spring and summer.
“We bring our own generator power – four of them are on tour, plus our box office that’s all computerized, and also the semis that house all the seating, the steel, the entrance tent, the concession wagon, so it’s quite a bit we bring with us,” Bauer explained.
“We have four forklifts that come with us on tour, bobcats – all that stuff,” he added. “The only thing we do locally is we tie in to the fire hydrants for water, because we have our own water trees that distribute water all over the lot, and we pay a company to provide diesel for all the generators, and we hire local (people) to help.”
Bauer is an eighth-generation circus performer whose brother-in-law is Tarzan Zerbini, a fellow circus veteran who once performed on the Ed Sullivan Show – on the same day The Beatles made their television debut in North America, no less.
“They taped the segment beforehand (and) it aired on the same show,” Zerbini told the Calgary Herald in 2013.
The transport trucks parked at Cloverdale Fairgrounds this week are painted with “Tarzan Zerbini Circus” logos. RVs parked nearby house the performers and crew.
“The people stay in RVs on the site and others might stay in a hotel,” Bauer explained. “The whole thing, it takes about a day and a half, total, for setup, from the time of marking and building everything.”
Bauer has spent his entire life travelling with a circus of one kind or another.
“I’ve been performing for 45 years, and my first show was in Osaka, Japan, when I was five,” he said. “My mom, dad and sister were performing there and they had me come out on stage and do a handstand on my dad’s arm – that was my first appearance. And we’ve been all over the world ever since, at expos, state fairs, amusement parks, all that, so I grew up travelling all over the world.”
For years, Bauer made a name for himself as aerialist who thrilled crowds on a “Wheel of Destiny,” a 50-foot pendulum on which he leaped.
“I was the first one to do that with Circque du Soleiel, and I’ve been with them four times – twice to Russia, twice in Montreal at their winter base,” noted Bauer, who later took on ringmaster duties.
“I started ringmastering about 30 years ago,” he said, “because one day the ringmaster didn’t show up, some kind of situation, and my dad said, ‘You gotta do it,’ and I just jumped in, after seeing some ringmasters over the years. It worked, and people told me I should keep doing it, but I didn’t want to give up my aerial stuff. Sometimes I actually do both, where I host the show and then at the end of the show I jump on the Wheel. The audience finds that intriguing, that the ringmaster does more than just talk.”
Bauer’s two children are both circus veterans now, and his niece, Erika Zerbini, performs with the show’s Liberty horses.
It’s all very much a family affair.
“And we have an awesome husband-wife high-wire act,” raved Bauer, referring to Spain’s Guerrero Duo. “They were on America’s Got Talent. She sings almost opera style, sort of like Sarah Brightman, while they’re on the high wire and she’s the only one in the circus to carry a man on her shoulders across the wire. It’s fantastic.”
The circus also features the Dominguez dog act from Mexico, Martin Espana American Cyclone motorcycle show, Andrea and Alejandro Gonzales’ “aerial strap” performance via Peru, clown Piolita Videlaa from Argentina, a “Super Heroes” aerial featuring the Mica Duo of Columbia, and more.
Tickets for the circus are $25 for general admission, $35 for VIP seating and $50 for ringside. Details can be found at Royalcanadiancircus.ca.