By Johnny Jackson
"Ladies and gentleman," yelled Chris Connors.
The introduction seems to be the universal cue for audiences world-wide to lose themselves in shows of heroic acts and superhuman displays, when crowds hush and spontaneously erupt with excitement.
In its 121st edition, Cole Brothers Circus will present said show the 75th of the year in its "Super-heroes of the Circus," starting Sept. 29 through Oct. 2. The family-oriented show will last two hours, again hushing and exciting audiences of all ages.
And Connors knows the quieted-excited reactions well. As ringmaster and performance director, he announces those shows sometimes three times a day. For him, it never gets old because, he said, he has always wanted to do it.
Growing up in Newberg, NY, he remembers his first circus experience in 1967 at Madison Square Garden. The Ringling Brothers performed.
He also remembers his first encounter with the Cole Brothers Circus. As a little boy, he said he watched his idol, the legendary Jimmy James, orate to the crowds. And he eventually replaced the 35-year circus veteran.
"I never thought I would someday replace him," Connors said. "I always wanted to runaway and join the circus. And I'm having a blast now."
He said he is actually retired from corporate America.
"I'm involved with the show and the audience. And they're the big stars of the show. Without them we'd have no show."
He said the show has changed over the years to suit the times but stays honest to the intent of circuses under the big top.
The connotations between exotic animals and the circus cease to exist in this Cole Brothers Show. In years passed, the tent circus presented shows with elephants, tigers, camels, horses, lions, bears, and chimpanzees to adoring audiences.
Since, the show has changed, forcing itself to become more creative and more intimately involved with its audiences, Connors said. Forty circus performers entertain audiences with heroic feats.
He said there are 18 displays with elements of awing humor and artistry.
Even Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk make heroic appearances during the show.
"We're trying to expand our base," said Rodney West, circus marketing director. "Some people who have objected to the circus have no reason to now. It's more of a character driven-show than an animal-driven show. This show is a more intimate setting."
Circus patrons may soon see various classic circus acts.
Flying trapeze artists Neto and Monica Neves are two reactionary characters in the show, he said. They are members of "The Neves, First Family of Flight."
This year, Romanian-born acrobat George Munteanu performs "The Human Slinky" as Slinky ironically celebrates its 60th anniversary.
There is an 11-member Chinese acrobatic troupe called "The Yan Dong." The troupe performs and displays 1000-year-old traditional Chinese acrobatics.
And then there are the clowns among other performances. Connors advised, watch for clowns Kellan and Perollito.
"This year, we have an exciting show," he said. "When putting the show together, we wanted to do something different. We've changed the format of the show. (For instance) there will be one ring this year instead of three. It's a traditional big top in a modern-day world."
Roy Dietrich, also known as Professor Kno-y, is a clown that tours for the circus. He is the advanced clown, goodwill ambassador for the circus. He recently visited a few elementary schools in the area and performed magic tricks for the students, inviting them out to the big top.
This is Dietrich's 12th year clowning around. He said he was always thought of as the clown of the family. And he noted that the circus still has a few animal companions around for children to enjoy.
The circus will also "salute the real heroes of Georgia," West said. Public servants including military personnel, police officers, firefighters, emergency responders, and hospital personnel are invited to have six free general admission tickets upon presentation of identification. But West asks that public servants come out 45 minutes early to be sure to get seats.