For many people decades ago a traveling circus was the epitome of entertainment.
Now, traveling circuses are few and far between, but one is visiting Dodge City on Labor Day.
The Carden Super Spectacular Circus takes the floor at United Wireless Arena at 6:30 p.m. — doors open at 5:30 p.m. — bringing its array of acts and its own ringmaster.
"I ran away to join the circus," joked Brian LaPalme, ringmaster for the Carden Super Spectacular Circus, who actually graduated high school early in order to join a traveling circus. "When I was a child, my father took me to a circus, but we also went backstage and saw where the performers lived and worked.
"I was hooked from an early age. I loved the mysteries of the performers and all the circus had to offer."
DePalme first served as a member of the circus by swallowing swords, performing magic and fire eating. One of his magic tricks was escaping from a strait jacket.
"I still travel around a little and perform some magic," DePalme said. "However, the really dangerous stunts I haven’t done in a long time.
"Age caught up to me. I’m just a ringmaster now."
The showman walked away from the circus world in 2014, determined to do something else with his life. However the circus wasn’t done with him.
"I realized the passion for an audience hadn’t passed," DePalme said. "When I got the call to join Carden Circus for the 2017 tour, I knew it was a sign to jump back into center ring.
"This is where I belong."
DePalme has been associated with circuses for 41 years. He believes one misconception about ringmasters is that they "just get up and do it."
"There’s an art, a showmanship to being a good ringmaster," he said. "There’s timing with the acts and reading the audience.
"Every audience is different. What everyone might believe is a showstopper, a different act my tickle the fancy of a certain audience. You just never know."
DePalme is happy his circus still has animal acts to show.
"We have elephants," he exclaimed. "What’s a circus without elephants?
"Our trainers love their animals and would never hurt them, but some states are banning circus acts with animals because of certain groups.
"Illinois recently banned circus elephants in their state. If PETA gets its way we won’t even be able to see animals in zoos.
"Our animals are cared for and loved and I’m so happy we have them in our show."
DePalme is also excited for daredevil acts that perform on the circus stage.
"I still get excited and nervous to see a flying trapeze or daredevil act where there is no safety harness or net for protection," he said. "I’ve seen these a million times, but I’ve also seen them fail and someone get seriously injured — or killed.
"I still get a nervous feeling in my stomach when an act like this goes on."
DePalme joins clowns, daredevils, tigers, elephants and more on Monday at United Wireless Arena. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for those under 12, but deals are available and patrons are encouraged to check with United Wireless Arena ticket office at 620-371-7878 for more information.
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