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Published April 11, 2011, 06:17 AM

Life's a circus

TOWNER, N.D. — Every day is a family circus in our house. Three kids age 6 and under all trying to capture our attention at once, busy schedules where it seems like we meet ourselves coming and going. So for a little Friday night relaxation, we packed up the family and . . . went to a real three-ring circus.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — Every day is a family circus in our house. Three kids age 6 and under all trying to capture our attention at once, busy schedules where it seems like we meet ourselves coming and going. So for a little Friday night relaxation, we packed up the family and . . . went to a real three-ring circus.

I think we just wanted to have a point of comparison for our daily circus. Thought we’d see how a professional traveling circus with clowns and tigers and high-wire walkers would compare with our home life.

A friend gave me free tickets to the circus, which sealed the deal. How can you pass up a free family fun night? Well the tickets might have been free, but the family fun night was far from cheap.

Fortunately, most of the proceeds went to a good cause. I feel better about buying all the stuff kids want you to buy at the circus when the money makes its way to a children’s hospital. Healthy kids having fun in one place and time making life a little better for sick children and their families in another place and time.

It was a pretty good little traveling circus. They had a ringmaster, a clown act, a trained dog act, tigers jumping through hoops, elephants that could balance on a ball, acrobats, high-wire walkers and a woman who shot herself out of a cannon. You don’t see that every day.

The main attraction

Even with the expectation of all those amazing and death-defying acts to catch a kid’s attention as we walked in the arena, the first thing the kids noticed was hundreds of other kids carrying plastic swords and magic wands with batteries and lights and sound. So, of course, they really wanted an $8 plastic sword with batteries and lights and sound that was worth about a buck at the dollar store.

It was quite a sight when they turned out the lights in the arena and every kid in the joint had their sword lit up and swirling around as they engaged their siblings in hand-to-hand combat.

The sword fighting was strenuous and took a lot of energy from the short people in my family. The only way to properly recharge their nutritional needs was with three bags of cotton candy.

Between trips to the sword sellers, the cotton candy seller, the concession stand and the bathroom, we caught a little of the action in the three rings of the circus. Then when we really got settled in, it was time for intermission. Not just any intermission, but a long intermission where kids can go down to the three rings of the circus accompanied by a parent (and a wallet) to ride some ponies, take a picture with the trained dogs, jump in an inflatable castle or ride on the elephant. Now I was starting to feel a little abused monetarily with this subtle form of “Daddy, Daddy, please!” extortion.

I talked them into another sword fight until the intermission was over. Finally, after the cannon went off, the cannon lady shot through the air, landed in the awaiting net and the smoke cleared, I asked my two oldest kids what their favorite part of the circus was.

“The swords,” they said. If I’d only known, I could’ve taken them to the dollar store and saved the $7 mark-up on the imported, Chinese-made amusement peddled at the circus.

But then we’d have all missed seeing the cannon lady, and we’d have missed having a point of comparison for our family circus. Now I know. We are a different kind of circus. No one’s been shot from a cannon at our house — at least not yet.

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