By Johnny Jackson
Evette Pagan attended the Cole Bros. Circus on Thursday dressed in desert fatigues. After work, the master sergeant at Fort Gillem joined her two young boys, Fernando and Caleb, who wanted her to see the show. And she said it was all worthwhile.
She said she most enjoyed watching the flying trapeze act with the Neves family, the "First Family of Flight." Both her sons, though, were more interested in running to meet Spider-Man after the show. The Incredible Hulk was also there to save the day.
The two superheroes have a mammoth task, protecting all that is comical under the big top that sits quaintly beside the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
And Kellan, Carlos, and Perollita own their share of mischievous clowning under the tent.
Jose Bermudez dresses as Kellan, the clown. The young Ecuadorian represents the third generation of circus clowns in his family. Whereas, his three sons 10-year-old Keller, 8-year-old Gian, and 2-year-old Kellan represent the forth generation of circus performers.
"We stay together, unlike a regular family," said Julia Bermudez, the family's matriarch. She described life with the circus as being close-knit and extraordinarily close, evident in the student tutoring scattered about the small circus camp just hours before showtime.
From Peru, Julia virtually ran away with the circus when she was younger to be a contortionist. Today, she performs in an aerial ballet for the circus.
Her husband Jose started out as a 10-year-old acrobat and gymnast in the circus. He said his oldest son wants to be an acrobat, his eight year old wants to be a clown, and for the youngest, "it is too early to tell," Jose said. "But he gets out there and rolls."
Jose has been in the circus for 21 years. And he and his wife have been with the Cole Brothers Circus for about nine.
A veteran, he said he still enjoys performing in the tent.
Inside, audiences appear to be impressed by the simple showing of contortionists Yu Xinmeng and Tong Jia. "Poetry in Motion," Chris Connors described their show.
And crowds get a kick out of George Munteanu's contorting antics, too, in his baffling act called the Human Slinky.
Some acts have audiences wondering long after shows have ended. For instance, some ask, how do Andrey Belobrov and Maiya Panfilova change their wardrobe so quickly without as much as a twitch?
Shyann Roddy liked the flying trapeze act, said her mother Tiffany Roddy of Stockbridge. Her daughter won a coloring contest to get free tickets to the show.
"We were really excited that she won," she said, referring to her 6-year-old daughter's meticulous attention to coloring inside the lines. The circus was not Shyann's first, but it was one for her to remember with her two older cousins. All of them got their faces painted to resemble kittens.
And she got a chance to see ballet dancers, the part of the show she said she wanted to see most of all.
"It's fun," said 6-year-old Jordan Barnett. Barnett also won tickets to the show from her coloring contest entry. "I don't know. I like everything. The high wire looks hard."
Both Jordan and Shyann have their grandmothers to thank for the opportunity to get free tickets and show their coloring skills. The grandmothers told them about the contest, and went along for the show.
Children and adults attend the shows, each with personal favorite performances.
"We do many things in the show," Jose Bermudez said, recounting why he performs. "But when the people clap their hands, that's when you feel good."