Circus a family affair for performers, spectators
Jan. 19, 2011 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 18, 2011 at 7:19 p.m.
FOR A GOOD CAUSEThe circus benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children, which is a network of 22 hospitals that treat orthopaedic, burn, and spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate. Children under 18 are eligible for treatment regardless of a family's ability to pay. The Al Amin Shriner Center is based in Corpus Christi.
Life-long circus performer Sandra Toscana was juggling before show time at the Al Amin Shrine Circus performance Wednesday night.
But it wasn't swords or fire she was struggling to manage with two hands - it was front-row tickets, cash and her 8-month-old baby boy Emmanuel.
"We still pride ourselves on being a family show," circus manager Alexandra Carden said.
Carden's husband, George, is the third generation owner of the circus from Springfield, Mo.
She gestured to Toscana and her baby.
"The circus is not something you just join in, it's something you're born with," Carden said.
Toscana said her Argentinean parents were in the circus, just as she anticipates Emmanuel will be.
She said she was doing the trapeze and contortions by age 6, and she wouldn't have grown up any other way.
"I like the changing towns every day. It's a vacation with pay," she said.
Besides just switching up locations, Carden said the circus has had to change its show to remain relevant after so many years.
"We change it every year," she said. "The acts get more dangerous, more daring. It's an evolution of the circus because you need to keep surprising people."
This year's show featured elephant and pony rides, face painting, white tigers, trapeze artists, contortionists, high-jumping dogs and plenty of laughs from young and old alike.
It's that variety, along with the quality family time it offers, that keeps Pat Hoffmaster bringing her two grandchildren back to the circus year after year.
"If they do well in school, they can come. It's like a treat," Hoffmaster said. "They just look forward to it every year."
Her grandchildren Aaron and Ashlee Garza agreed they had been on their best behavior since the promise of the circus.
"I like the elephants," 9-year-old Ashlee said.
Seven-year-old Aaron, his lips still blue from a snow cone, chimed in that he'd just ridden one.
"Animals are a big thing for us. A lot of circuses don't carry animals anymore," Carden said. "It's no circus without animals."
It's also not a circus without family - whether you're a spectator or performer.
While the rest of the arena's little eyes were fixated on a back flipping bicyclist, Emmanuel slept in his mother's arms, oblivious to the commotion around him.
"The music, the show, it's in your genes," Carden said.