A group of preschool children were greeted by elephants many times larger than their entire class when they visited the grounds where workers were setting up a blue and yellow striped circus tent Friday morning.
In the site of the former Denison High School in the 700 block of West Main Street, the Carson and Barnes Circus Ringmaster Erik Bautista guided the Kinder Kraft Preschool class past horses, goats, llamas and a baby dinosaur puppet.
While the circus workers were preparing for shows scheduled for that afternoon, Bautista outlined to the children the many parts that make up a circus. But the highlight of the field trip was learning about two Asian elephants who perform in the show.
The elephants, both in their 40s and weighing more than 8,000 pounds each, watched the children from behind a fence. An elephant trainer described to the children the differences between Asian and African elephants and provided various pieces of trivia about the world’s largest land mammals.
“All the information they gathered about the elephants and animals, they will take home to share with their parents,” Tabitha Conary, director of the preschool, said.
Conary said this opportunity provided a great experience for the children that was also educational.
“It’s a wonderful experience for the kids — a good educational experience about the circus,” Conary said.
The circus, sponsored by the Denison Kiwanis Club, held multiple shows on Friday and Saturday, and has two more shows scheduled for Sunday. Bautista said the circus employs 75 people, which includes members of the lighting crew, sound crew, midway workers, concession vendors and performers. He said they put on a traditional American circus experience that begins before the audience even sets foot inside the tent, which seats 1,200.
“We have the midway — the clowns walking around in the midway,” Bautista said. “As soon as they show up, the kids are excited. They see the pony rides, the big giant elephants, the train rides, bouncy house and concession stand.”
Denison Kiwanis Club President Joanella Hanes said the proceeds from the circus fund scholarships for Denison High School seniors. She said the presale ticket marks were reached, so they expected a good turnout for the weekend event.
“This is our fifth year to sponsor it, and we intend to sponsor it every year as long as the city has this lot empty,” Hanes said.
Bautista said the circus has six horses, two llamas, six pygmy goats, two elephants and five dinosaurs. The Jurassic creatures are a new addition to the show. This year’s show is a Circus Saurus that features puppeteered dinosaurs with the traditional mix of trapeze artists, jugglers and stunt artists.
“Once you go inside the tent, we give them a little twist,” Bautista said.
Bautista noted that his favorite part of this new show — one that elicits a great audience reaction is when a live woolly mammoth enters the ring.
“Personally, I love that woolly mammoth,” Bautista said. “When it comes into the ring, it’s just impressive.”
The woolly mammoth is one of the elephants dressed up as the prehistoric creature. Bautista noted the show is family friendly and just a fun event for all ages.
“We are trying to bring back the old-fashioned circus,” Bautista said. “I think that the best way is to show them the good old-fashioned American Circus.”