The idea of holding a large circus on an island has a Matt Damon family-friendly movie plot written all over it.
Only in this case it’s not Hollywood but Kelleys Island, where the Kelly Miller Circus will be setting up its big-top for shows at 4 and 7 p.m. Aug. 5 and 6 in Pavilion Park.
The Oklahoma-based entertainment group’s two-day extravaganza, featuring roughly 80 people traveling in over 30 vehicles that are catching a ride on the ferry, offers circus fans plenty of high-wired fun.
Funcoast.com talked to Kelly Miller Circus Home Office Manager Jill Jones about this year’s event.
First of all, what type of operation is needed to move a massive circus to an island?
It’s actually not as hard as it would seem, but then again, we’ve been coming long enough that it’s basically down to a science now. In the beginning, I guess it probably was a little undertaking. The ferryboat line works amazing with us as well as the chamber, which is hosting this. The first year took some finagling and figuring out how many trips, but after as many years as we have, it basically goes off without a hitch now. I’m going to guess four [ferry runs].
So why does the Kelly Miller Circus come back to Kelleys Island every year?
I can’t honestly tell you why it started because we have been playing there since 2003 or 2004. Obviously we play pretty much a different town every single day, and we do play in Ohio every single year. Now it’s a given. It’s tradition. We look forward to it. Everyone on the island looks forward to it. You’d be amazed at the number of people that actually vacation around it. We get calls periodically throughout the year of people who will vacation around and want to know what our dates will be. So Kelleys Island is just now a Kelly Miller Circus staple. We’ll have 2,200 people at our shows during the two days.
Tell us about this year’s circus, which is called the “One Ring Wonder.”
We’ve got a lot of our popular attractions coming back. The elephants are back. The tigers are back. Every year we do a formal production, which is our single-trapeze act included with our web act. This year is a jungle theme. So we actually have fire and stilt walking included. That’s something new this year. Also, the fire-breathing and fire-eating is absolutely amazing. Another thing is we’ve got the Rosales Family back this year. They’ve toured with us in years past. They’re coming back with their 8-year-old twin boys and do what is called a perch pole act. That’s where they are on a 40-foot pole atop their father and do head balancing. So we’re pretty excited about having them back this year.
What’s the one act this year that’s proven to be the most popular with audiences?
Probably the elephants, tigers and clowns. That’s a given. We do have a zebra act this year, which is brand-new. It’s four working zebras, which you don’t see that very often. Zebras are actually one of the harder animals to train, so to actually see them in the ring where they waltz is pretty interesting.
Something that stands out about the Kelly Miller circus involves the use of the big top. How old school, right?
We’re always old school. I think you lose circus magic when you go to an arena. Our current owner is John Ringling North II. His roots go back to Ringling days and his great uncles were the owners of Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. He grew up on the “Greatest Show on Earth.” A portion of that growing up was an old school circus tent. For him, it’s probably tent or nothing.
Advance tickets for the Kelly Miller Circus are $15/adults and $7/children (pre-sale tickets are $10/adults and $6/children). Tickets are available through the Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call (419) 746-2360 or visit online.