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Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars to roll into Cape next week

By Staff | Nov 20, 2010

The Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars will make a three-day stop in Cape Coral during its 126th season.
The circus will be in town Monday, Nov. 22, through Wednesday, Nov. 24, at a site on Pine Island Road, in a field across from the Dollar General store west of Del Prado Boulevard. Showtimes are 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. each day.
Ring Master and Performance Director Chris Connors said he has been in the circus industry for 14 years full-time and has been with the Cole Bros. Circus for nine of those years as the ring master.
The love and passion his parents had when he was growing up in New York gave him a look into the world of the circus at a very young age, along with the experience of the Cole Bros. Circus.
One of Connors’ first memories of the circus occurred when a milk bottle was fed to him as a baby by the Cole Bros. clown and retired ring master Jimmy James.
James, who passed away in August 2009, was the ring master for 35 years.
“Jimmy James was an inspiration,” Connors said. “He was a big man … big voice … a legend.”
Before joining the circus, Connors went to college where he studied communication and broadcasting and marketing and business. He tried out the corporate world for some time, before deciding that his life was missing something, which was “when the bug of the circus came in me.”
He explained that he enjoys seeing the different generations come together to watch one of their shows.
“The most impressive thing is to see the older people that haven’t been to a circus in a long time and they bring their grandchildren and nieces and nephews,” he said.
So far, Connors has put 10,000 miles on his vehicle traveling from town to town, which he explained “is pretty good.”
“It’s not an easy life … you have to enjoy what you do” he said. “My ZIP code changes every day and my backyard looks crazy.”
Some of the things the circus will feature includes a flying trapeze, a young Ukraine woman who balances her entire body on one finger, stunts with ATVs and motorcycles, the world’s largest canon, clowns and many animals.
The presenter of the cat act, Nick Giannino, joined the Cole Bros. Circus this season after he was an animal intern for the circus at the age of 16. Now 25 years old, he performs with eight big cats, seven of those are multi-colored and one is a liger, which is a lion/tiger mix.
His first experience of watching the Cole Bros. Circus took place when he was 3 years old. After seeing the tigers do their tricks, he began to follow the circus and watch it every year.
The dreams of the young observer became a reality when he was given the job of working with the tigers at the show he followed for so many years.
“It’s about taking your dreams and running with them,” he said, adding that it takes a lot of hard work to make your dreams come true, but “you can make it happen.”
Although he enjoys performing in front of a crowd, Giannino said his favorite part of the circus is being around the tigers because he has the opportunity to spend quality time with them on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s not every day you can bond with a 500-pound predator,” he said.
The 10-minute tiger act the audience will experience, which is being re-introduced for the first time since 2004, will include various tricks.
Giannino explained that he does not necessarily teach the tigers new tricks, but rather has them perform while utilizing their natural behaviors.
“You need to learn their personalities and what makes each of them tick,” he explained. “Every animal is different and everyone has their own personality.”
Fifth generation performer Jennifer Herriott Walker followed in the footsteps of her family’s long-time tradition in the three acts she performs during the show — the jockey dogs act, an upbeat act on a flying trapeze, along with an act that includes eight kinds of animals. Her great-grandfather began the tradition of training exotic circus animals, which trickled down to her grandparents, parents and siblings working with circus animals as well.
She explained that she became a part of the circus before she was born due to the fact that her mom was pregnant while she performed her aerial cloud swing act almost 29 years ago.
“I was doing them even before I was born,” she said, laughing about her aerial cloud performance.
Although the life of a circus performer can be difficult at times, Walker said there is no better feeling than when the big top is full of people and you walk into the ring and perform your act.
“It is amazing,” she said.
The enjoyment of hearing the crowd roar with applause after she finished her act, along with seeing all the smiling faces in the crowd, Walker said “is the best feeling in the world.”
Although “it’s a hard life,” she said, “it’s a pretty cool life, it can be pretty amazing with the places we go and people we meet.”
The Cole Bros. Circus is on the road from March until the end of November with its last stop of the season in Bonita Springs.