Carson and Barnes Circus performers walk the tightrope Tuesday afternoon during the first of two performances at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. The self-proclaimed “world’s biggest big-top show” also offered elephant rides and a petting zoo.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Carson and Barnes Circus performers walk the tightrope Tuesday afternoon during the first of two performances at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. The self-proclaimed “world’s biggest big-top show” also offered elephant rides and a petting zoo.

Recollections of the big top

Carson and Barnes Circus’ arrival Tuesday evokes childhood memories


The air inside the tent was sultry Tuesday afternoon with the mingled aromas of cotton candy and popcorn.

The crowd watched, entranced, as two acrobats nimbly walked the tightrope while a third performer slowly lifted herself into a handstand on a bar between them.

The Carson and Barnes Circus was in full swing at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

Among the 100 or so people who came to the big top was Jeff Schlim of Craig, with wife Stacy and their daughters, Ema, 7, and Taryn, 4, in tow.

For Schlim, the big top event evoked memories from his own childhood.

“I can remember doing this when I was a kid,” said Schlim, 35, moments before the lights in tent dimmed and the show began. “It was pretty exciting.”

His most vivid recollection seeing the exotic animals, especially the lions and tigers, the show brought to town, he said.

Carson and Barnes Circus travels to more than 200 towns every season, most of them populated by less than 30,000 people, the circus reported in a news release.

Craig was one of the circus’ many scheduled stops in an itinerary that also includes Steamboat Springs, Kremmling and Meeker.

The show’s attractions weren’t limited to the tent that dominated the fairgrounds Tuesday.

Pony rides and a tyke-sized train awaited children outside the big top, while a donkey, llamas and other animals clamored for attention in a small petting zoo nearby.

Trevor Forbes, 5, and his sister Felicity, 3, both of Hamilton, fed goat kids small handfuls of grain from paper cups their mother, Melissa Forbes, got for them at a nearby stand.

She, too, recalled seeing the circus when she was a child. Riding an elephant and seeing trapeze artists stood out most clearly in her mind, she said.

Trevor and Felicity had never been to a circus before, but they knew exactly what they wanted to do once they got there.

“They wanted to ride the elephants,” Forbes said, laughing.

Fortunately for them, a few obliging pachyderms were on hand Tuesday to fulfill their wish.

Forbes’ children, she said, “were pretty excited.”

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janiem 4 years, 11 months ago

The adult’s wonderful memories of the circus were just illusions. Carson & Barnes Circus has hidden the inhumane and cruel methods they use to train their exotic animal performers for decades. But once you see the video of Carson head elephant trainer training 3 elephants to perform circus tricks behind closed doors you may realize for the first time the abusive and cruel methods the circus uses to train their animals to entertain their audience. "You can't do it on the road," Frisco says. "I'm not going to touch her in front of a thousand people." If the children saw this video they would run screaming and crying from the Big Top never to attend again. If you love animals the circus is the last place you would ever go these animals have only known a lifetime of abuse.


Colette Erickson 4 years, 11 months ago

After watching an Internet video reportedly showing animal handlers from the Carson & Barnes Circus abusing elephants, I decided to dig a little deeper into their practices. I didn’t find one or two problems but six pages of violations documenting how this circus has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition. Starting in 1982 when five elephants tried to escape from the circus in Oklahoma (one elephant was killed during this incident) to December 2011 when they were cited for failure to protect elephants from injury, it was clear that this was a company that has had little to no regard for public safety or animal welfare.

Then I looked into the Endangered Ark Foundation, which they claim will receive proceeds from tonight’s show. The foundation is owned and operated by Carson & Barnes Circus. It calls itself an elephant breeding facility and appears to have been created in part to maintain elephants for use in their circuses.

The fact that the Daily Press did not report on any of the numerous violations, the documented animal abuses or the circus’s ties to its own Endangered Ark Foundation charity is a disservice to our community. I ask the newspaper to please do your research before you provide free front-page advertising to groups like this.



Rebelgirl 4 years, 11 months ago

Yet people still attended to support such cruelty. May be one should go to the orginizations that contract the circuses and voice their concern. To encourage them to no longer bring such "shows" to Craig. If they do we need to step up and show up to protest the show. This blog is good to get the word out to a couple of people but going out and being not only heard but seen will increase awareness.


daily 4 years, 11 months ago

The excitement and wonder that painted my childs face during the entire performance was not an illusion. They loved the animals, the show and the personalities. I saw no nervousness or apparent injuries to any animal. We will be going again,


circusfan 4 years, 11 months ago

Animal rights activists are well-organized, well-funded (tens of millions of dollars) and well-intentioned. Motivated by those good intentions local people who love animals are easy manipulated by the East Coast-based special interest lobbying groups to do their dirty work: like submitting letters to the editor and trying to corrupt any positive articles about the circus.

When you understand that the largest of these activist groups wants to close every zoo, every wild animal park, every no-kill shelter (think about that for a second), and every circus, you begin to see that the ultimate agenda is far more extreme then most intelligent people would tolerate.

By trotting out and referring to 20-year old videos, citing violations that go back as far a 30+ years (of course, they never mention that in their rants) it gives the impression that animals are being beaten and slaughtered on a daily basis. Since these activists are doing "God's work" they give themselves a pass when it comes to spinning the truth. "Hey, it's all for a good cause. So we have to lie a little."

If the violations are so egregious why does the USDA (government agency that oversees circus animals) continue to let them operate? Consider that the USDA leadership are also admitted animal rights activist supporters and you have to wonder. In fact, the vast majority of violations are so minor as to be fixable within minutes. Some may require an infrastructure improvement, and that is done on a fast track by the circus.

These animal activist organizations threaten, coerce, and bully anyone who does not agree with their over-the-top agenda. Believe me, you do not want to get in their way. They will put you down like a horse with a broken leg.


David Moore 4 years, 11 months ago

No matter how old a video might be, they don't lie. I cannot and will not support places that beat their animals into doing what man says and after seeing trainers smacking them with the bullhooks, and the recoil of the animal afterwards, I just could not go ever again. I don't blame the activists, which I am not, for ruining it for me, I blame the ones hitting and beating the animals. I don't want to watch animals perform because they are beat into performing for my benefit. I faced the inevitable the other night and my 11 year old, who I was hoping was past the circus by now, asked to go. I explained to her the issue, showed her the video and let her read about some of the behaviors displayed by the trainers. She immediately rescinded her wanting to go, no coersion by me, nothing. If she was going to be adamant about going, I would have taken her. I am very proud of her, I was torn on the issue, I didn't like it at all but was going to let her decide. I think she made the right choice.


Rebelgirl 4 years, 11 months ago

The USDA is yet another government agency that has their hands full of money from other agencies both government and private that tourture and kill animals. Go ahead and support their cause circusfan. Its people and ideas like yours that keep the truth hidden. Stay within the walls of your ignorance and in your perfect little world where the government is here for its people and do no wrong. The government is full of good people that serve the people and the ideas of said people............wake up unless your a big corp with tons of money your voice doesnt matter. As for no kill shelters there are bad ones out there, they do the same damages as horders. As for the age of the videos do more research before spouting off on the dates. What the elephants are forced to do is forced upon them. How else does it get done? Show me how with proof of how they are trained if not by bullhooks, shock, ropes and chains? They are not for our entertainment nor is any animal. To rip a young elephant away from its mother is wrong. How is this different from ripping any young animal including a human from their mother for the entertainment of others? How would you feel if it was done to you? There is outrage when humans are mistreated, protests, speeches, yet nothing is done for animals. They are disposable, nothing more than an object. Elephants are very very smart, they do not forget what is done to them. Why do you think they break lose and hurt or even kill their "trainers" during shows. The Ark Foundation is a crock of junk. It does nothing but ensure that there will be a future for the industry of entertainment. If it werent for those of us who speak up for the animals abuse, needless tourturing, and killing would continue. They ave just as much right to live a long happy life as humans do. And thank you Dave for educating your family and allowing them to make their own decision.


Rebelgirl 4 years, 11 months ago

P.S. the video from the Ringling Bros circus abusing the elephants is three years old NOT 20! Again I am not sure where you are getting our info but it is incorrect.


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