Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Another Kelly-Miller Texas Storm Thriller? Show Slated to Hit Toubled Trails in Days...

Kelly Miller Circus under a Texas snowstorm, 2010, photo by Ryan ("Radar") Easley

There is, no there was, a reason why our tent circuses, for years and years, started their seasons in the spring rather than mid-winter. The reason was weather. Simple as that, at least as we see it here in our Circus 101 Classroom.

Examples, from old route books: Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. in 1995 opened in mid March; Kelly-Miller in 1956 opened in mid-April.

A season from spring to late fall can bring rain and wind and blow downs enough. Pushing opening day up can only add terrific stress to a time that, ideally, should be spent in preparation and rehearsals -- rather than having to give any new staffers of the first-of-may brand a crash course in cherry pie.

Over at Kelly Miller, John Ringling North II and James Royal evidently are going to risk another early opening, down there in Brownsville, Texas. In only ten days from now. A snow storm last year in Texas (possibly Brownsville) placed enormous hurdles on the troupe. In the opinion of many with the circus, it caused a devastating drop off in ticket sales. Ryan's photo, above, landed high honors at the Monte Carlo photography contest, making it onto a calendar they put out.

But this precarious quest for early revenue could throw new costumes and truck designs into the mud fast. Could rattle nerves into premature-season traumatic stress syndrome. When did a show throw its destiny so precariously into the grave possibility of giant mud puddles and torrential rains? I can remember one -- Circus Vargas, when Cliff Vargas pitched his huge tent (at one time, a six-poler) on the most unlikely Northern California lots in February! To Mr. Vargas, the word "madness" applied; Is Mr. North channeling Mr. V?

OK, I'm hooked already. I will be returning to Steve and Ryan's blog, and I know most of you will, too. For Steve, say what you will, gives a blow by blow account of weather, lot conditions, overall size of audiences, not to mention how their gags clicked with audiences or malfunctioned. Please, Steve, spare me your trips to ER (just assume my prayers will be with you). Yes, I'm a non-trouping wimp.

Is there another circus blog out there that takes us that up-close to the action?

Yes, Annie, a lot can happen in a week of lyrical turnarounds by Mother Nature. Song cue: The sun'll come out Tomorrow! Bet your bottom dollar!

I am convinced this troupe harbors a perverse addiction for tough trouping the old fashioned way. Heck, I have an idea, North II & Royal I : Why not trade in your trucks for wagons, hook 'em up to tractors or donkeys, rig some bed frames on the tops, and have yourself a lovely little Toby Tyler tour?

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, is only a bright sunny lot somewhere, somehow, maybe over or under the rainbow, or around the back of Wall Mart or down there next to, see, those lovely trees by that, grave yard? ------ away!


Harry Kingston said...

I remember that for a Vargas date in California he increased his tent to 6 poles. Back then he had two tents, one for the mud and one for the malls.
I know about the two tents as I worked at a local tv station and Cliff called me. He said Harry I need a favor, ok Cliff what, I need a new set of poles. Ok Cliff.
A machine shop in Beaumont, Texas where I live made them all. Plus new bale rings and mud blocks etc.
Steves blog lets hope he continues but last year he said he was burned out on his blog. It went from day to day to three weeks later maybe.
When he did it day by day it was the best modern day route book a fan ever read.
There is always hope as no other bog equalled his for information on Kelly Miller.
But we are fans and not traveling Amercia day by day and slopping in the mud trying to make a living.
Harry in Texas

Showbiz David said...

I agree, Harry, Steve's day to day blog was a living route book. Very unique.

Jim Royal said...

I feel I must offer a word or two (or more) in our defense. The cost of operating a tent show continues to increase every year, ask any show owner. Winterquarters is a period of no income and continual expenses, not a particulary good business model. A longer season offers the potential of income and it offers longer employment for artists and staff. At Kelly Miller we are very fortunate to have an excellent team, and they are all in favor of a longer season.

The freak snowstorm occured in Frisco, a Dallas suburb, on March 20th. For many years Hugo shows have played this part of Texas at this time of year. In 2010, we did experience poor weather during a portion of the Brownsville engagement, the year before at the same time of year, we had great weather which is the norm. We don't venture into an area without researching weather trends. Even then, a show can get into difficult weather. The season of 2009 we were having to get vehicles pulled off lots throughout the entire season, it seemed to be wet no matter where we were and when.

If I am being really picky. . . we aren't "pushing opening day up". It was planned long ago, as was our winterquarters schedule. We took on many projects this winter, and I am pleased to say that all were completed on time. As I said earlier, John and I are blessed with some terrific people.

Please know that we enjoy and appreciate your blog,

Showbiz David said...


I wish you and JRN II dry sunny straw houses in Texas.

And then, please, route your wagons south and out west, into virtually always sunny Southern California.

That would be a Dream Reason for me to take the train to L.A.

Harry Kingston said...

Mr. Royal,
When you have a team headed by John Ringling North II and Jim Royal and a great bunch of workers and performers you all have, it is a win win situation.
Your performance gives the locals there monies worth and then some.
The prices you charge is a real bargin today.
It is my great pleasure to know you and Mr. North and you will play this year very close to me.
I am excited to see your new 2011 show and know it will be a real winner.
All my best to you all and have a journey across America thrilling many new towners.
See you down the circus trail.
Harry in Texas

Radar said...

Thank you for the press, Dave.