Johnstown Independent

Culpepper & Merriweather Circus is coming to town

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Billed as "America's Favorite Big Top Circus," the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus will make a return trip to Johnstown in the spring.

The Hugo, Okla.-based, circus will perform Sunday, May 18, at Belt Field, with shows at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Downtown Johnstown Inc. is sponsoring the event. Belt Field, at 281 W. Jersey St., comprises 23 acres.

"We perform in smaller towns because they typically don't get to see a circus, and we really make sure our show is in the tradition of the American circus," Culpepper & Merriweather spokesperson Terri Moss said. "We want to provide quality family entertainment."

Culpepper & Merriweather last came to Johnstown in May 2012. Tickets, when announced on sale at local businesses, will cost $10 for adults and $6 for children ages 2-12, with children under age 2 admitted for free. On the day of the show, tickets will be $13 for adults and $7 for children.

"All three shows last time were sold out, and it was really nice to see happy families here have a good time," said Downtown Johnstown Inc. president Chris Speck, a former village council member. "It's great because residents don't have to drive to Columbus to see something like this."

The one-ring circus features a 90-minute performance that includes Miss Simone and her "breath-taking single trapeze," Miss Paulina's proud "Big & Little" prancing ponies, the Arlise Troupe on their unicycles, Natilie's American Eskimo Escapades and Miss April and her Rola Bola. The performances also include jungle cats Soloman, Delilah and Francis, with trainer Trey Key, Moss said.

Between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., residents are invited to watch the raising of the big-top tent, which can seat 600-800 guests, and stay for a free tour of the grounds.

Moss said it provides a rare face-to-face opportunity to learn about the history of the circus and how trainers care for the different animals in the show.

"This has really become popular when we arrive in town," Moss said. "It really gives people a chance to see what we do."

Culpepper& Merriweather has been featured on National Geographic's Explorer TV series, Entertainment Tonight and, most recently, "On the Road with Circus Kids," a Nickelodeon special.

According to the Culpepper & Merriweather website, it had very humble beginnings.

Robert Johnson, Jim Hebert and Curtis Cainan started a small show in 1985 and relied on donations. Gradually, they were able to add employees, equipment and animals.

Until 2001, the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus was based in Queen Creek, Ariz., when new ownership moved its headquarters to Hugo, deep in the Red River Valley.

Hugo is known as "Circus City, USA." Culpepper & Merriweather is the 20th circus to call Hugo home since 1941.

Downtown Johnstown Inc., with more than 50 members, works to deliver entertainment to the community. The organization sponsors the annual Cupola Classic Cruise-in in September and a Labor Day flea market, among other events.

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