Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Circus Rolls into Green Cove Springs; Family Operation Set to Perform 2 Shows Monday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Circus Rolls into Green Cove Springs; Family Operation Set to Perform 2 Shows Monday

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, County Line staff writer

The Walker Brothers Circus is coming to town, hauling a five-generation legacy and an old-fashioned big-top act that is becoming one of the last of its kind.

The Sarasota-based circus will perform two shows Monday at the Clay County Fairgrounds west of Green Cove Springs.

That's what the 25 or so people who call Walker Brothers their family do 287 days a year -- roll into a town, do two shows, then roll on to the next town, said contracting agent Dale Longmire, who has 30 years in the business, including a stint as a Ringling Bros. clown.

"It's a complete lifestyle. It's a job and it's a life," he said. "It becomes a part of you. . . . You can love it and hate it at the same time."

The circus has animal acts, clowns, aerialists, jugglers and illusionists, not to mention the requisite cotton candy and other goodies. But don't think the juggler gets to spend all his time juggling. In such a small operation, the juggler might also help raise the big top and sell the cotton candy.

"We're multitasking. Everybody's doing everything," Longmire said.

Despite the nomadic existence, long hours and hard work, circus folk have a consistent goal: to entertain people.

"You get a wonderful sense of good people bringing laughter and fun to everybody," he said.

Walker Brothers bills itself as an "old-time family circus . . . pure circus, so close to your seat that you can actually reach out and touch the excitement." It also bills itself as "the last of true Americana."

That's because, as a form of entertainment, the traveling circus is slowly disappearing. Owners are having an increasingly difficult time attracting employees who don't mind a life on the road and finding sites large enough to house the big top, which requires 900 square feet of space, Longmire said.

"We're one of the last traveling circuses. It is becoming a lost art," he said. "A lot of things we are finding it hard to find now."

But Walker Brothers perseveres, in part because it is a family-owned business, handed down from father to son, with several different generations working together to put on the show. …

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