The ‘Big Show’

Circus Performs In Pittsfield Over Weekend

The “Cowboy” act showcased a variety of tricks and stunts performed with a bullwhip at the Warren County Fairgrounds, Saturday and Sunday, part of the Lewis and Clark’s travelling circus.

PITTSFIELD, Pa. – There were no lions, tigers or bears in Pittsfield over the weekend – but the circus was more than enough to make those watching it say, “Oh my.”

The circus is one of the oldest forms of entertainment with roots dating back to ancient Egypt, extending into the days of the Roman Empire and medieval Europe. The modern circus as we know it can be traced to 1768, when trick rider Philip Astley discovered that when his horse galloped in a circle, the centrifugal and centripetal forces allowed him to balance on its back. He built a ring, hired a clown, and the modern circus was born.

The Lewis and Clark Circus: A Great American Circus Under the Big Top, performed four shows Saturday and Sunday at the Warren County Fairgrounds inside its big top tent. The show featured no animals. Instead it included several performances such as acrobatics, clowns, trapeze acts, hoopers, jugglers, magicians and other gravity-defying feats, all within the confines of one, 360 degree, circular, big top tent.

“We drove in from Jamestown,” said Jorge Rodriguez-Torres of Jamestown and native of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. “I brought my wife and two kids to see the show. … I remember going to the circus as a child, seeing the ‘big show’, The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and I want my kids to be able to experience it too.“

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced in May 2017 that it would close its circus shows, ending a more than 100-year tradition of a national traveling circus. However, in May 2022, Feld Entertainment (parent company of the circus) announced that the circus would resume operations in the fall of 2023 with a tour of 50 cities. The circus said the new show would debut as a “multi-platform entertainment franchise,” according to ringling.com.

Circus attendees watch a performance during the Lewis and Clark Circus show held at the Warren County Fairground on Saturday and Sunday.

Additionally, Kenneith Feldman, the chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, “that slumping ticket sales, high operating costs and the company’s decision last year to eliminate elephants from performances made continuing the circus “unsustainable,” in an interview with PBS in 2017.

The Lewis and Clark Circus, however, took a different approach to running their show. Since 2013, when the circus was purchased from its original owner, the traveling circus has remained animal-free.

The Lewis and Clark Circus was founded in 2006 by Bob Childress. In 2013, Childress sold the Lewis and Clark Show to circus performers Olena and Vandeir Reis, who continue to operate it today. Olena and Vandier met in 2003 and fell in love while on tour with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros, Circus. Olena, originally from Ukraine, worked as an aerialist, and Reis, originally from Brazil, worked as a professional acrobat whent hey found themselves with the opportunity to buy a circus. And now, after one circus purchase, 11 years on the road and thousands of shows later, they are sharing a circus life, full of adventures, with their two children. The Lewis and Clark Circus, by traveling through the 10 to 15 states per season, have a show in more than 100 towns.

“It was funny seeing my daughter on the stage with the clown who’s also a magician; he had Cortney on the stage helping me with his “magic” saying “macaroni and cheese”, instead of “abracadabra,” said Russell native Mike Anderson. “I really liked the juggler and the fact that they performers had multiple children helping out and being part of this show.”

An aerialist with the Lewis and Clark Circus performs at a show Saturday held at the Warren County Fairgrounds. The show featured a variety of acts which were family-friendly, fun, interactive, and animal-free.

A Lewis and Clark Circus clown helps a young program participant conduct a magic trick at the circus’s Warren County Fairgrounds Show, Saturday. P-J Photo by Chirstopher Blakeslee


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