Circus wows crowd, sans exotic animals

Alexander Sinn • Aug 23, 2018 at 7:00 AM

The Kelly Miller Circus raised the big top on Harbor Island on Wednesday for its 14th consecutive stop in Grand Haven.

Clowns, jugglers, tight-wire acts and a fire breather impressed the crowd for two evening shows. 

This year’s show did not feature exotic animals. Animal rights groups pressured the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to end its elephant, lion, tiger and camel shows in 2017.

Emilie Dean, an aerialist and tight-wire walker with the Kelly Miller troupe, said a circus without exotic animals has created opportunities to expand the variety of acts. Its three-pole tent is now two poles.

“The fact we’ve got people doing a pretty wide variety of acts makes it worth the time and effort,” she said. “The pace of the show is pretty fast, so it keeps you engaged.”

Dean, who also drives a truck and helps with other circus operations, said performing has become more exciting in her five years at Kelly Miller, despite the risks.

“Like anything else, it’s more exciting,” she said. “Fear is an exciting aspect of our job. You have to respect what you’re doing. There’s a very real chance if you’re not being careful you’re going to get hurt.”

An Arizona native, Dean said she is one of only a few American citizens in the organization.

“There’s not many places you can hear so many languages,” she said. “I hear Mongolian more than I hear English sometimes.”

Other performers include fire breather and ringmaster Lamount, rola bola performer Fridman Torales, hula hoop artist Miss Deya, table perches Mende and Zaiya, clowns Ez and Kozee, juggler Weaam Hassa, and the Mongolian Troupe.

The Tri-Cities Kiwanis has partnered with organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters and No More Sidelines to give individuals with challenges or facing hardships in life a chance to see the circus for free.

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