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Circus full of entertainment


A juggler on a high unicycle entertains the crowd at the first performance of the circus last Thursday. - Jacob Wagner photo

The Culpepper & Merriweather Circus rolled into town on Thursday, and held two packed shows that night during a heavy rainstorm.

The circus crew raised the big-top tent in the morning, and a small crowd took the tour, getting close to a lion and two tigers, a clydesdale and ponies, a calf, dogs, goats and more.

The jungle cats included Francis, a 500-pound lion; Solomon, a 450-pound male tiger; and Delila, a 375-pound female tiger.

The cats eat between 10 and 15 pounds of meat each day, and fast for one day a week, much like they might do in the wild. The animals were rescued by the circus from a zoo that closed down due to not taking good enough care of their animals, one staffer said.

The troupe, which scheduled Grand Coulee after the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce agreed to sponsor the event, performs seven days a week, two shows a day, for 32 weeks out of the year.

Some of the performers were raised in the circus, doing homeschool from the road.

Hundreds of people of all ages filed into the tent Thursday evening and sat on bleachers to watch the show.

Starting off the show, the jungle cats jumped from box to box inside a large protective cage that was later taken down for the acts that followed.

Performers rode unicycles, juggled fire, walked the tightrope and more. Leo, the clown, rode into the ring in a tiny car and clowned around with volunteers from the audience.

A trapeze artist swung from the ceiling in seemingly impossible positions. flipping and spinning, sometimes holding on only with her neck.

A contortionist bent herself into shapes that would send most people to the chiropractor or the emergency room.

A clydesdale performed alongside a tiny pony to great comic effect, and dogs jumped through hoops and fences, with a little schnauzer climbing a ladder.

The grand finale came when a father-son duo climbed onto a machine which looked like two human-sized hamster wheels on either side of a long metal contraption that spins and spans from floor to ceiling when vertical. The duo spun this "Wheel of Destiny," climbing in and outside of the wheels, jump roping on it, balancing on it blindfolded, and performing flips and tricks in death-defying stunts that made the crowd roar with applause and gasp in moments when it seemed the performers could have lost their balance.

Then they did it all again for a second show.

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