Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cirque du Stone Mountain

The circus is in town. Two of them. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Philips Arena and the Big Apple Circus at Stone Mountain Park. Both continue through Saturday. My wife and I took four old Chance, the one who actually calls me Paw Paw Bill, to the Big Apple Circus at Stone Mountain Park. This is not "The Greatest Show on Earth," but it is certainly a great show, plenty of fun for the younger ones, and gentle on the older ones.

Stone Mountain Park is pretty easy to find. Look for the biggest piece of exposed granite East of Yosemite. To narrow it down a bit, take U.S. 78, the old Atlanta-Athens highway, also called the Stone Mountain Freeway, and exit at the main entrance to the park. Follow the circus signs to the Confederate Yellow Daisy parking lot. If you have a blue handicap sticker like me, you can park just steps from the front flap of the circus tent. Even if you don’t, it is a relatively small parking lot for a relatively small crowd. It is all very manageable.

The Big Apple Circus does not have any lions, tigers, and bears, oh, my, but it does have live music, ringmasters and ringmistresses, colorful costumes, clowns, jugglers, acrobats, high-wire acts, horses and trained dogs, presented with the essential circus teamwork, precise timing, and breath-taking demonstration of basic laws of physics. My favorite was the Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatic balance act a trois, whose eye-catching costumes consisted mainly of metallic paint from head to toe. Under the Big Apple big top, no seat is more than 50 feet from ringside, closer than a baseball pitcher to home plate. Of course, the concession stand provides the usual cotton candy, peanuts, popcorn, and crackerjacks, etc.

The Big Apple Circus is celebrating its 30th Anniversary season at Stone Mountain. Big Apple is a non-profit program offering the joy and wonder of classical circus and outreach programs such as “Clown Doctors,” bringing laughter and smiles to the bedsides of children at pediatric hospitals, free or discounted circus tickets to schools and community organizations, as well as providing free "Circus of the Senses" special performances, using wireless headsets and American Sign Language interpreters around the country.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter

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