The James Christy Cole Circus sponsored by the Sahara Shriners is back in town. The show, which opened Saturday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, has returned to Pine Bluff for the first time inthree years.
The crowd of approximately 1,500 people began to pour in early for Saturday’s afternoon performance. Armed with cotton candy, nachos and glow toys, the young and young at heart took their sits with eager anticipation.
“I’m looking forward to the animals … especially the dogs,” said 14-year-old Auburney Tuckerson of Pine Bluff.
Eight-year-old Brooklyn came with her family from Tillar to see the acrobats.
“I like it when they do the flips,” Brooklyn said as she waited for the show with her brother, mother and grandmother.
With performances reminiscent of Vaudeville and daring acts not for the faint of heart, the show was introduced by ringmaster Cristine Herriott-Plunkett as “the only event in the world that hasn’t been censored.”
With approximately 16 acts, according to circus producer, James Plunkett everyone was “in for a treat.” Entertainment for the show included Amarillo, the hind-leg-walking pony; the Sensational Simon cube balancing act; a dog and pony show; aerial artistry; upside-down juggling and Tahor, the Alligator King — all before intermission.
“We have the only alligator act in the country,” said Plunkett, who credits himself for producing the Shrine circus since 1990. “About 80 percent of our acts change each year.”
During intermission, the fun continued as children took advantage of pony rides, elephant rides, and face-painting Some of the more adventurous ones took pictures with Tahar and the alligator. Others played on the moon bounce and purchased candy bars, hoping to win a free bicycle.
Twinkles and Fairway, along with other members of the Shriners’ Clown Patrol, strolled the venue entertaining all who crossed their path.
After intermission, the spotlight turned again to center ring. Anna Louise, the dancing elephant, was featured along with more aerial performances and a somersaulting performance by Titans of the Trampoline, a group that includes members of the Plunkett family,.
The James Christy Cole Circus is a family tradition started by the Plunkett family.
“My family goes back to the 180’s in the business,” Plunkett said. “My father came from a family of 11 children, all of them in the circus at some point.”
He now continues the tradition with his wife, two sons and a daughter — for whom the circus was named.
“It’s kind of a hereditary thing,” said Plunkett’s 20-year-old son, Jesse. “I’ve been doing this my whole life. I just enjoy the entertainment part of it so much.”
Sahara Shriners Potentate Ross Martin hoped the excitement would carry over to the attendees of all three performances this year. There was an evening show Saturday night, and the final performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.
“If all goes well, we want to make this an annual event again,” Martin said.