By Jon Schroeder
The Cove Herald
LAMPASAS — There may be “a sucker born every minute,” as P.T. Barnum supposedly once said — but in Lampasas, they got their money’s worth.
After all, the greatest show on earth was in town.
The Culpepper and Merriweather Circus, which hundreds visited on Monday at Lampasas Airport, put on two evening shows. The circus’ big top tent was put up in the morning and torn down immediately following the last performance.
After years of travel and wear, the tent is getting old and likely won’t be replaced in the near future — circuses are fewer and farther between than ever, but they’ll always be around, performers said.
Brent DeWitt, a longtime circus performer who plays “Cheeko the clown” in the C&W Circus, said today’s fast-paced culture doesn’t have much like circuses anymore, and for him that’s a sad thing.
“This is the last bit of magic left in the world.”
Other performers said the same.
For performer Ron Dykes, another of about 24 people who usually travel with the circus, it’s “unfortunate” that many circus acts are drying up.
Be he, like DeWitt, says it’s not going anywhere — pointing to some grandparents in the crowd, he says they’re continuing a tradition, bringing younger members of the family to the circus.
Pointing to kids in the crowd, Dykes says they’ll someday bring their children to the circus.
This circus, brought in for its third bi-annual trip to Lampasas by the Lions Club, features elephants, a trapeze act performed by ringmistress Miss Simone, the unicycling Arlise Troupe and the antics of Cheeko, among others.
Outside the big top, ponies and elephants were available to ride, along with a small sideshow — no pictures were allowed of the exhibit, and as DeWitt said, “What it is, how old it is ... we don’t know.”
For the C&W Circus in particular, the times aren’t bad — the number of people at each show is rising, and performers say that’s because there are less live shows available.
Dykes, who has worked at the circus for 28 years, says it’s tough to remember not being a part of it: that means shows every day for seven solid months, moving daily to different cities all over the country on the West side of the Mississippi river.
For some, the circus was a first: 72-year-old Lampasas resident Dave Lewis brought out his grandkids, but he’d never been to a circus before either.
And for some families, seeing the big top go up was more than enough encouragement to bring them out for the day.
Trisha and Gary Field, with their daughter Jasmine Armendaris, 5, and son Zachary, 4, saw the tent being raised in the morning and were the last customers to leave in the evening.
That’s just how it’s always been, DeWitt said. The circus appears one day, as if from nowhere, and puts on a show.
By the next morning, all traces of it are gone, but the idea lives on.
“The circus,” he says, “will be here forever.”
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428