Circus comes to town

Kelly Miller Circus thrills fans of all ages with performance

EVART – The Kelly Miller Circus came to Evart last week.

A convoy of vans, trucks, trailers and motor homes made its way down U.S. 10, pulled onto the Evart Industrial Park property, and within minutes dozens of workers were laying out a colorful tent city.

Where there was empty space one minute, there suddenly was a blast of color and furious activity the next.

For residents of Evart and people driving along the highway, the sight of the circus “going up” is thrilling.

For those charged with creating the temporary community it’s simply another stop along the way.

Kelly Miller Circus family sleep in the same beds every night – but in 242 different locations in a row.

The sun comes up in a different “neighborhood” every day.

There are more than 80 people in the circus crew. Each knows exactly what they need to do.

The organization runs like a fine-tuned clock.

“We all get along real well. It would be tough, real tough, if there were problems. There’s not a lot of room for conflict in an operation like this,” noted Kelly-Miller’s music director, tour guide, and resident circus historian “Lucky” Eddie Straeffer.

Working together every day and night, the circus family entertain thousands along the road.

The Big Top holds 2,000 “guests” and full houses are a regular occurrence – even in tough economic times.

“People love to come to the circus and we love to have them,” said Straeffer. “We try to keep our prices down so that folks can afford to bring the whole family to the circus. That’s really what this is all about … good, ol’ fashioned family fun.”

When the circus pulls into town, it takes about two hours for everything to be up and running.

The operation is astoundingly efficient.

More surprising, as folks are leaving one side of the Big Top tent following the final performance, crews are already at work taking the whole “community” apart on the other side. In fact, some parts of the operation are already being dismantled during the final show’s intermission.

Straeffer reported it takes 50 minutes to completely pack up the circus and hit the road for the next town.

“It only takes 40 minutes if there are tornado warnings,” he added. “The threat of a tornado can be a real motivator when your entire operation is in tents.”

But there were no threats last week and the weather was great for the Evart show as hundreds of guests filled the tent for two shows.

“We really love what we do,” said Straeffer while giving a tour of the operation to a couple dozen folks earlier in the day.

“We love being able to keep the circus tradition alive in towns all around the country. It’s great seeing how kids respond to us – the clowns, the animals and all of our performers.

“We create a little magic. We make people smile.”