Greatest Show on Earth pulls into Manchester, N.H., Boston
By Jill Diver
Flying dogs, and clowns, and elephants, oh my!
No, it’s not a new twist on “The Wizard of Oz,” and there won’t be any flying monkeys. But The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is coming to town with its all new presentation, Over the Top.
The show, long known as The Greatest Show On Earth, runs at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. from Thursday, Oct. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 4 and at the TD Bank Garden in Boston from Oct. 14 to 18.
Donning his top hat, Ringmaster Chuck Wagner presides over this 138th edition of the circus with 102 performers, and yes, that includes the clowns.
Back this year by popular demand is Gail Mirabella and her high-flying, lovable canines.
Before joining the circus, Mirabella left her day job to focus on her dogs and her love of everything having to do with them. She has trained them to snatch discs from the air and race through an obstacle course at lightning-fast speed, and for these efforts has earned titles in canine competitions throughout the United States.
Among her dogs are a father-and-son duo that performs acrobatic, freestyle routines. The father, a 7-year-old Australian shepherd named high-flying Houston, specializes in leaps
and high jumps.
Then there are Jet, a 3-year-old border collie; Chaps, a 2-year-old rescued border collie who is the newest member of the troupe; Brooklyn, a 6-year-old rescued Australian Shepherd; and Cricket, a seven-pound, adopted terrier mix who holds the title of the world’s smallest disc dog.
Other animal acts in Over the Top include Jenny Vidbel and her Barnyard Bonanza, creating quite a stir with Newman the Pig as he rolls out the red carpet; mountain goats; and 12 white ponies who canter, turn, prance and bow in perfect formation.
Vibdel travels with 38 animals, among them ponies and goats, as well as horses, llamas, pigs, dogs and her pet porcupine, Percy.
“I love my animals and I love what I do,” Vidbel said, noting that she has never considered her participation in the circus a job. “It’s my life… It’s what I do,” she said. “My life is anything but routine. Every day is different. I wake up and find myself in a different city with different people and sights to explore. It’s exciting, but also a difficult life at times.”
And what would a circus be without a display of tigers?
Daniel Raffo returns with his Siberian, Sumatra and Bengal tigers for a third performance with The Greatest Show On Earth. Raffo and his troupe of seven Bengal tigers — each weighing in at around 700 pounds — perform an array of acrobatic feats, leaping and rolling in perfect synchronization and springing across the ring on their hind legs.
“Everything we do together is based on trust, respect and positive reinforcement,” Raffo said. “I’ve learned a great deal over the years from these beautiful animals. I understand their feelings, know if their tooth hurts or if they have a stomach ache, and work with those characteristics. Every day I learn something new; every hour, even every second, which is one of the things that I love most about doing what I do.”
This article ran on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2009 in the Sunday Eagle-Tribune Life section