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Feld Entertainment
A rider with the Cossack Cavalry performs stunts on horseback at the circus.

"Congratulations! Your ruminative responses provide incisive indication of loyal leadership and thorough theatricality — you are particularly predisposed to being a rollicking Ringling ringmaster!"

How about that?

It's not very often a reporter heads to a Web site to do a little research and finds out they have what it takes to be a ringmaster.

But anything is possible when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is involved. The Greatest Show on Earth's mile-long train arrives in Salt Lake City Wednesday. It will be carrying flying dogs, Asian elephants, miniature horses, llamas, pigs, Bengal tigers, 84 performers — even a performing porcupine, the makings of an "Over the Top" extravaganza.

If you want a glimpse into the "circus" of "Over the Top," gather the kids around the computer and go to www.ringling.com.

After getting distracted by shooting a clown out of a cannon into a tub of water, learning about the beautiful Asian elephants and taking a circus aptitude test, you'll soon discover what makes this show "over the top."

"This show is so cool," said Peggy Williams, who has been with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in different capacities since 1970. "We have the motorcycle routine, there are Chinese acrobats who do amazing things, we also have acrobatic horseback riding and agility dogs."

The "Over the Top" show puts ringmaster Chuck Wagner and clown Tom Dougherty in a competition for control of a magical top hat. Williams, trying not to give away any surprises, did her best to describe the numerous moments that will make the crowd gasp. "We have a motorcycle guy who rides on a high wire, double trapeze acts, it's amazing."

The fun begins Wednesday at noon with the traditional Elephant Walk and Circus Parade. With the help of motorcycle police, the parade will begin at EnergySolutions Arena, head north through The Gateway and back to the arena. The parade is free and open to the public.

"Come early!" Williams urges. "If you come to the show 90 minutes early, you can go to the animal open house," where guests can see the animals up close. Kids can even watch one of the elephants do a painting. "She paints every preshow, and one lucky person at the show will win her painting."

If you arrive an hour early, you can head on down to the arena floor. "People can try on costumes, try out some of the apparatuses — that are safe — get photo ops, talk to the performers and clowns, and it's free with your ticket," Williams said, adding that children love it "because kids don't normally get to see these things up close."

Williams, who was the first female clown to graduate from Clown College in 1970, now spends her time working on combining education and fitness with the circus.

"The stuff on the Web is free, and it's for everyone — from teachers to parents to kids. It helps teach science, for example. We're trying to make it fun — to make whatever is coming to town a little more relevant in the classroom."

So, for some fun before the show, go to the Web site with your kids to discover that:

• Elephants respond to some 60 verbal commands.

• When annoyed, llamas and alpacas spit.

• Zebras' stripes are as distinctive as a human's fingerprint.

You can also find out if you have what it takes to be a Ringling ringmaster.

If you go

What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Where: EnergySolutions Arena

When: Wednesday through Sunday, times vary

How much: $10-$24

Phone: 801-325-7328

Web: www.ringling.com


E-mail: ehansen@desnews.com