You always know when a circus is arriving in town. Before the trailers arrive, before the tent goes up, you’ll see the posters announcing its arrival. They were all over our little town, and this year there was no escaping. This year my oldest could read.
Around midweek, he had returned from school both excited and slightly upset. He was excited to receive what he thought was a ticket to the circus, but sad that the rest of his family had no ticket. After I explained to him that he had merely received a coupon worth 2 Euro off the entrance price, he relaxed and asked when we were going.
I was not really in favor of attending the circus. I had seen several small travelling circuses over the course of the four years we’ve lived in Germany, and avoided them all. I had a preconceived notion of what a small circus would entail. The circus that travelled through our last town always depressed me, and friends advised against attending it. This would be the first we’d attended. I had my doubts.
The circus was set up at the Festplatz on the outskirts of town. In between several large trailers was a blue and white tent with the name Henry suspended amid the lights above it. It looked clean, inviting, and festive. To one side there was a portable paddock with an interesting menagerie of small ponies, goats, cows, and donkeys. Just beyond the paddock another tent housed the remainder of the circus animals.
We bought our ringside tickets and headed inside. There were three levels of seating available, but the tent was arranged to provide everyone with a decent view of the inner ring. That, and the tent wasn’t exactly huge. After purchasing some overpriced light sticks for the kids, we patiently waited for the show to begin. It was interesting to observe the amount of work that everyone did. People effortlessly changed from performer to set-up crew, to ticket vendor to cotton candy vendor. No one appeared to have just one job.
I, however still had my doubts. Apparently I did not hide those doubts as well as I thought. The Ringmaster singled me out early on in the performance. He would later tell me that he had watched me through the entire show. He said he could see that I was initially very skeptical, but as the show went on, a transformation occurred. One that he saw slowly take place on my face as I watched performance after performance, allowing myself to experience the joy and magic of the world they created in the small tent.
The Circus Henry is a family circus, which according to their website has performed together since 1812. Watching them work together was amazing. They had clowns of course, and typical flashy circus costumes, but there were also performers in Dirndl and Lederhosen. There were several animal acts, including beautiful dancing horses and comically talented performing dogs and goats. The human performers were just as mesmerizing. The hula hoop performer, the young acrobat, the balancing strong man, and the plate spinner were all fantastic.
The performance that really amazed me was one that I thought also best illustrated the relationship between performing human and animal. A cowboy and his horse rode into the ring, and rather than a rodeo style performance, he took the saddle off and the horse lay down. The horse displayed a level of trust with his handler that I had never seen before. Rider and horse laid together on the ground, in all manner of unusual positions, with the horse allowing the man to manipulate his legs and roll him from one side to another. It was unlike anything I had seen before.
In an age where entertainment is so often found in a high-tech form, sometimes an afternoon spent at an old-fashioned performance is a great way to bring the family together. You often read about seeing the joy on someone’s face, but how often do you actually see it? I found that at the circus, I could track the emotional transformation on my children. Watching the anticipation turn to wonder, amazement and joy was an unexpected highlight of our trip. Apparently one that I underwent as well. It seems that we all enjoyed our afternoon at the circus.
My daughter was enthralled with the daring spectacle of the Queen of the Ropes, who climbed and spun atop a long rope in the center ring. She said that she liked all of the girl performers, but the lady on the rope was magical. My son was partial to the camels, which we paid extra to visit during the circus intermission. Even my husband enjoyed our circus time. He said that he was impressed with the man who displayed his feats of strength by balancing on a tower of chairs.
The Circus Henry was a lovely and enjoyable afternoon. If you see it pass through your town, go ahead and give them a chance. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed. You can learn more about them here.