ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – A traveling circus set up its big top in Escanaba over the weekend.
The Culpepper & Merriweather Great Combined Circus performed July 8 and 9 at the U.P. State Fairgrounds, sponsored by the Delta County Chamber of Commerce.
“Our show is a classic one-ring American circus based in Hugo, Oklahoma,” said Leo Acton, clown and tour guide for the circus. “We travel all over the United States–17 different states altogether–for eight months out of every year.”
Along with shows earlier in the week in Munising, this was the first time the circus has been to the U.P. since the pandemic.
“We were mothballed for 18 months, so it was really difficult to get things back up on the road again and to get traveling,” Acton said. “We’re really excited to pick up our lifestyle again and bring entertainment all over the country.”
Crowds enjoyed acts like aerialists, clowns, daredevils, and a few live animals, including two rescued tigers.
“Our two tigers, Solomon and Delilah, are rescues from a zoo that got shut down in Texas,” explained Acton. “When the owner of our circus rescued them, they were only a year and a half old. They were in really bad shape, and it took about two years to nurse them back to health. Our tigers are going to turn 20 years old this July, which is about five years longer than the average tiger in captivity.”
Acton says while the circus is a lot of fun for the staff, it takes a lot of effort to put on such an elaborate show.
“A lot of people have a lot of pre-conceived notions about the circus, but really we’re just hard-working Americans like you guys trying to support our families,” he said. “That’s why we open up our tent-raising in the morning, folks can watch our big top go up and see how much work it really does take to make our show possible.”
Each performer is involved in the setup and operation of the show. Acton says it is a joy to continue the tradition of the circus and share it with new audiences.
“Folks get a chance to come out and see an incredible American institution,” he said. “There’s less and less big top shows. The circus is made for everybody; it’s not exclusive at all. We really want everybody to come out and be a part of the show.”
The Culpepper & Merriweather Circus tours the West Coast next year, and will return to the Midwest again in 2025.
For more information on the Culpepper & Merriweather Great Combined Circus, click here.