The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ramsay gets 'taste of traditional Americana circus'


Ryan Jarvi/Daily Globe

MISS SIMONE performs her trapeze act under the big top tent during the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus held in Ramsay on Sunday. The circus also featured a black mane lion, two tigers, trained horses and dogs, and a variety of other performances.

RAMSAY - You know the old familiar aromas: that fried-food scent of heaven, roasted peanuts, the sugary sweetness wafting in from the creation of cotton candy, something reminiscent of farm life, and a little hard-work and sweat for good measure.

It's not every day the circus comes to town, but for a majority of the year the entertainers and work crews with the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus visit small towns throughout the nation quite frequently.

Leo has been a clown performer since 1998, but it's his first year with the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus, which stopped in Ramsay on Sunday.

The traveling circus held two afternoon shows under the big top tent, with some of the proceeds going to benefit the Bessemer Township Fire Department.

Prior to becoming a professional clown, Leo had to do what so many other people do before entering the working world – go to school.

And where else would a clown go to school but the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

"It's a two month course," Leo said of his education. "It's kind of like boot camp with bigger boots. Thirteen hours a day, six days a week; and every week our class would put on a brand new show for the local public for free, and kind of use that to build material for a big graduation show, that was basically an audition for the big show."

Leo said there were multiple generations of families performing together at the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus and described the Ramsay show as "A nice taste of traditional Americana circus, and also a healthy dose of the unexpected."

According to the organization's Facebook page, the circus travels about 32 weeks of the year to small towns all across the nation beginning in mid-March and going through the summer into October.

"We always try to integrate new things into the circus, but our format is very traditional so it's very family friendly," Leo the Clown said. "Also we have amazing exotic and domestic animals that are working together in harmony and happiness."

The circus featured Francis, the black mane lion, two Tigers, trained dogs and horses, as well as a tightrope walker, contortionist, a group of unicyclists, and more.

The final stunt was a dramatic act called the "Wheel of Destiny" that involved two performers, a giant revolving metal structure with two circular wheels at both ends, and impressive amounts of physicality and courage.

"From what I hear of the people in town, Ramsay's never had a circus here, so this is something new, something different," said Jeff Randall, Bessemer Township supervisor and member of the fire department.

Randall said a portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the Bessemer Township Fire Department.

Brian Kuchinski has been fire chief of the BTFD for about 23 years.

"We're looking at any way of promoting and getting things going on in this area," he said.

Kuchinski also said this was the first time Ramsay has ever had a circus.

"The main thing is just to get things going in the area," he said of the reason behind hosting the event. "The money is one thing, but it's just to give back to the community and get things going in the community again."


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