CARBONDALE — Jodie Urias watched with intent as a loop was attached to the top of a giant steel globe. After all, in about 24 hours she would be dangling from the loop inside the globe as motorcycles — only inches away —buzz around her.
About 100 cast and crew of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus descended on the SIU Arena to setup for five performances this weekend in Carbondale.
Dean Kelley, a clown and host of the pre-show, said this year’s performance is their new Barnum Bash, which features new acts from all over the world.
“You name it, we got it,” Kelley said. “There’s basically something for everyone in the show this year.”
Among the awe-inspiring acts, Kelley said, are The Flying Cruzados, who perform gravity-defying stunts in a double wheel of steel; The Urias Family, which performs in the Globe of Steel; Duo Fusion, which is a husband and wife hand balancing act where the wife does the heavy lifting; Havana Troupe, a gymnastics and trapeze performance; and an animal show featuring Asian elephants, camels, horses and dogs.
Kelley said ticket holders are encouraged to come to the performance one-hour early for the pre-show, where children are able to get up close and meet the performers and see special performances.
Kelley, who said he’s dreamed of being in the circus since age 4, said the Barnum Bash is a show unlike any other that will keep the attention of children and adults alike.
“Our show starts out at 100 and it doesn’t stop,” he said. “We can keep everyone’s attention the entire time. We’ve got flashy lights, flashy costumes, and we try to keep up with technology the best we can to bring The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Jessica Clowers, a veterinarian technician with Ringling Bros., said her background is working with exotic animals at zoos, but she left to work at small animal hospitals. She found an opportunity to return to working with exotic animals at Ringling Bros. and said seeing the reaction from children is rewarding work.
“Just watching the kids get so excited to see an elephant, some of these kids may never get to see an elephant unless they went to the zoo,” she said. “Just watching the smiles on their faces and getting excited and watching the animals perform — it’s a lot of fun.”
Jodie Urias performs in the Urias Family Globe of Steel, with her husband, Erwin, brother-in-law, Melvin, and his fiancée, Olga Surnina. Surnina is one of the few women in the world to ride motorcycles in a globe.
The Urias’ pioneered the act of riding motorcycles at high speeds in a steel globe; Melvin and Erwin are fourth-generation performers.
Jodie Urias said the act the family is bringing to Southern Illinois is something the family has performed once before, but revived for the Barnum Bash.
Urias will hang from a loop in the globe. As she spins, three motorcycles fly around the globe at 60 mph. With each bike at five feet in length, and the globe at 16 feet in diameter, Urias said there is little room for error when performing.
“It’s pretty intense,” she said. “We’re really close together.”
“I can reach out in any direction and I’m touching someone,” Urias added. “So I keep my hands to myself in the globe.”