I think this graphic,
opening page of Ringling.com, is interesting. Ringling Bros. and
Barnum & Bailey Circus does not have a locomotive like this.
They do have the two longest private trains in the world, but they look
like my photos below and the power for the trains is from the railroad
on whose tracks they are running. In Anaheim and San Diego that
would be Union Pacific. Yet they are proud of the fact that the
circus moves by rail and have this beautiful graphic which gives a nod
to the circus trains.
These "Buy Tickets" buttons do not work here - go to Ringling.com or the Box
Office to purchase tickets.
In cities where there is additional space Ringling Bros. invites ticket
holders to its Animal Open House, allowing guests to see our animals up
close in their habitats. Guests can also speak with the trainers and
presenters and learn more about the most amazing animals of The
Greatest Show On Earth!®
All Access Pre-show
The party starts an hour before the
show at the All Access Pre-show, which is free with your ticket
purchase. You and your family can meet our international cast of
performers and get up close to our menagerie of animals. Try on custom
costumes, learn circus skills - like juggling - from the famous
Ringling Bros.® Clown Alley and even have the opportunity to win a one
of a kind masterpiece created by one of our very own Ringling Bros.
painting pachyderms! Together with the show, your family receives over
three hours of extreme family fun not to be missed.
At The Greatest Show On Earth®, the special relationship between
trainers and treasured Ringling Bros.® Asian Elephants is highlighted
as each trainer shows off individual elephant’s natural skills and
abilities. Part of the largest herd in North America, these leading
ladies show off their moves such as dancing, kicking beach balls and
twirling jump ropes in a choreographed display that cannot be seen
anywhere but at Ringling Bros.
Six Angelic Aerialists
Six Angelic Aerialists perform two
artistic displays that are the epitome of grace and beauty. Talented
artists from Russia and Ukraine perform an acro-ballet of bungee sky
diving that is a mash-up of synchronized circus skills, made even more
dramatic by performing under ultra-violet, blacklight in stunning
fluorescent costumes. In their second appearance, a hanging, metallic
orb suspended high above the arena floor provides the gymnastic
apparatus for an original and thrilling aerial presentation.
Interview with Brett
Goertemoeller, Red Unit Trainmaster
Brett during street running on Santa Ana Street in Anaheim,
California, July 22, 2015.
The easiest way to tell
the Red Unit from the Blue
Unit of the Circus Train is to check the background color of the shield
on the railcars and the elephant's foreheads when they are
Sometimes a car is moved from the other unit, so you may spot a car
with the opposite unit's colors.
Brett is the first RBBB Trainmaster
I have been able to interview since 2012 when I interviewed the Blue
Unit Trainmaster, Joe Colossa. (At the end of this report, under
Links you can find that report.)
Brett's bio. lists his railroading education at MODOC Railroad
Academy. He attended MODOC in Sacramento, CA. (Link
at the end of this report.) He was also a member of the
Vermont Army National Guard and held the duties of Bandsman. I
found an example of his musical ability in a video from Joe Colossa's
AL Ringling Mansion impromptu performance - link at the end of this
After his National Guard duties ended, he was Joe Colossa, former Blue
Unit Trainmaster's Chief Mechanical
Officer (CMO) for seven months. After that internship, he took
over the train.
The Circus Train has been called, "A Town Without a ZIP Code," because
of all the crew, staff, and performers who live there 11 months a
year. This year the Red Unit has 280 "residents" from many
countries including Mongolia (which has it's own full rail car because
of the size of the group), Canada, England, Croatia, Ukraine, and many
from South America. Those who do not live on the train, have
motor homes or trailers which you will see parked near the arena.
The Red Unit of the circus train for 2015 consists of 60 rail cars
which result in a train over a mile long. Within those 60 cars
4 stocks (for elephants and other performing animals),
for the 280 performers and staff who live on the train,
(containers on flat cars), and
19 Flats (flatcars, usually cut down
auto haulers of about 80 ft. each, which hold vehicles and circus
wagons which hold rigging and concessions.)
This totals 256 axles not including the assigned road power-another 12
axles. The red unit circus train is
5,320 feet, not counting the
power. That is a train 40 ft. longer than a mile. The flatcars
and coaches are each 89 feet long.
The coach cars on the circus train have many configurations, the
largest being a 1/2 car. The 1/2 cars are in the consist after
the stocks (animal cars) and are identified by a center door in the car
where others have only vestibules. Half-car residents include the
Trainmaster, General Manager, Concessions Manager (SCP), Floor Boss,
Production Manager, and Assistant General Manager. One coach car
was added last year to the Red Unit. When I traveled on the Blue
Unit in 2012, I and another person shared a 1/6-car
accommodation. Check my 2012 report under LINKS below to see some
inside shots of coaches.
I learned in past years, from the Chef in the Pie Car, that not all 280
people who live on the train eat in the Pie Car. Some have
cooking facilities in their accommodations. I recalled that a
large Chinese group of performers had their own two cars, dining area,
cook. Brett said that same car is now occupied by the Mongolian
troupe this year.
The Red Unit of the Circus Train has gone to Mexico two times and I
believe Brett was on at least one of those trips. He said that
their train traveled with few stops during those trips and all went
well. There is no plan, as far as he knows, to take the Circus
Train to Mexico in the future.
Brett says a seasoned engineer is the best to pull his train of
animals, passengers, and flatcars because dynamic breaking does not
work with a mixed train like his.
As to how everyone gets on the train for the next move, Brett says that
each passenger gets a Transportation Pack that has the departure
time. However, when the train is loaded, it leaves and some
passengers have been left behind.
When I chatted with Brett during the unloading of the flats, he said
Anaheim's unloading point, right into the north parking lot of the
Honda Center, was very good because they did not have to hire tow
trucks to tow the coupled circus wagons on city streets to the arena.
I asked Brett what railfans who follow the circus like to learn.
He said the history of the cars is of interest to you and promised to
give me a copy when I met him at the train in Anaheim. I also
received a copy from Rhett Coats who keeps this list up to date for
RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY™
Year 2015 Red Unit Circus Train
~~ Railroad Car HERITAGE Listing ~~
AAR Reporting Marks / Circus Type + 2-digit House Number / Original
Marks - Car-type and name, if any
This list shows the train-consist in ALPHA-NUMERIC order for easy
railcar heritage reference. The train never travels in this order.
RBBX 40001 Coach 34 v UP 5450
RBBX 40002 Coach 48 UP 5451
RBBX 40003 Coach 57 UP 5453
RBBX 40004 Coach 45 UP 5457
RBBX 40005 Coach 40 v UP 5458
RBBX 40007 Coach 35 v UP 5465
RBBX 40012 Coach 32 v UP Alpine Scene
RBBX 40015 Coach 50 UP 5460
RBBX 40017 Coach 59 UP 5464
RBBX 41302 Coach 41 PRR 8245 Bedford Inn
RBBX 41306 Coach 33 v PRR 8264 Kane Inn
RBBX 41311 Coach 31 v N&W Pike County
RBBX 41313 Coach 37 v UP 5526
RBBX 41315 Coach 39 v PRR 8290 Van Wert Inn
RBBX 41403 Coach 30 SAL 50 Bay Pines
RBBX 41406 Coach 38 v SP 2365
RBBX 42007 Coach 60 UP 5414
RBBX 42017 Coach 29,Center Vestibule v UP 5434
RBBX 42018 Coach 30,Center Vestibule v UP 5435
RBBX 42019 Coach 28,Center Vestibule v UP 5438
RBBX 42020 Coach 56 UP 5439
RBBX 42021 Coach 53 UP 5440
RBBX 42022 Coach 54 UP 5444
RBBX 43001 Coach 36 v UP 5493
RBBX 43002 Coach 42 UP 5529
RBBX 43004 Coach 46 UP 5533
RBBX 43005 Coach 55 UP 5535
RBBX 43006 Coach 52 UP 5536
RBBX 43008 Coach 49 UP 5542
RBBX 43010 Coach 51 UP 5499
RBBX 43011 Coach 47 UP 5537
RBBX 60002 STOCK 1 [h] / Genset v UP 5755 [Postal / Storage]
RBBX 60006 STOCK 2 UP 6312 [Baggage / Messenger] (from 2014’s Blue Unit
train; # S-2)
RBBX 60012 Pie Car 43 [Circus Diner] UP 6322 [Baggage / Messenger]
* Former RTTX tri-level flatcars were acquired with “JTTX” reporting
marks – and with the same numbers.
• RBBX cars beginning with “4” are 4-axle passenger equipment.
• RBBX cars beginning with “6” are 6-axle passenger equipment.
• RBBX cars beginning with “8” are freight-type cars.
(Now, when you
see an RBBX number or a House Number on a railcar later in this report,
just look here to learn its history.)
2015 RED UNIT Train Consist
(The first Half of their 2-Year Tour with the 145th Edition of
RBBB Circus: “CIRCUS XTREME”)
TOTALS: 60 CARS -- 4,370 TONS -- 5,320 feet in length
ACF American Car & Foundry
BI-LEVEL Flatcar with two tiers
COFC Container on Flat Car (special [Circus storage] car-type
FEC Florida East Coast RR
GTW Grand Trunk Western RR
H.N. House Number [Residence I.D. numbers on Circus Train coaches]
JTTX Trailer Train (“TTX”) Corp. (privately-owned reporting marks
for TTX Co. Flatcars)
MCLX Morrison Car Leasing, Inc.
N&W Norfolk & Western RR
PRR Pennsylvania RR
RBBX Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey (privately-owned
reporting marks - denoted by “X”)
RTTX Trailer Train (“TTX”) Corp. marks for late 1960s-era
TRI-level Auto-rack cars
SAL Seaboard Air Line RR
SP Southern Pacific RR
UP Union Pacific RR
RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY™
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.Ringling.com
Also see the Circus Train Yahoo Group at:
List compiled by RHETT COATES, based on company records and other
Red Unit RBBB Circus Train
information on movements from one venue to another.
The Yahoo Circus Train Group
is an excellent
place to learn many facts about the Blue Unit and Red Unit Trains of
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the James E. Strates
Shows carnival train. For those who like to chase and photograph
the circus trains, this site even provides the radio frequency.
The following information about the move from Ontario, CA to Anaheim,
CA was provided by this site:
RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM &
151.625 is the Circus Train Operations radio frequency.
JULY 22 RED UNIT Train-Run from Ontario to Anaheim CA. ('Unknown
how the train will be split upon arrival on the line to Anaheim.)
RED UNIT -- 145th Edition -- "CIRCUS XTREME" -- on the FIRST half of
its 2-year tour.
Current RBBB rail-tour Edition Numbers for the two railroad shows, Red
(and Blue), are measured from the show's first year, 1871. Train-run
["jump"] dates presume each train departs the morning [or day] after
the closing performance date. RBBB Circus Trains can change scheduled
routing and departure time without notice.
2015 RED UNIT – 145th EDITION of THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH – “CIRCUS
XTREME” - YEAR ONE
The morning of the move from Ontario to Anaheim, California, the
following was posted on the Circus Train Yahoo Group:
RUCT: Ontario CA to Anaheim CA - 07/22/2015
RED CONSIST: 60 Cars = 4 Stocks, 35 Coaches, 2 COFC, 19
Flats. (Total 256 axles less assigned road power)
RUCT Tentative Projected Schedule. Routings and Times are made in
advance and are Subject to Change without notice. As we have
seen, Motive Power can be whatever is available with carrier at
NOTE: Date(s) cited depend on departure out of Ontario CA on Wed
UP Equipment spotted for loading as arranged with Circus
Trainmaster - Tue 07/21/15
This current Post Time, it appears the routing should be the same as in
“2014” we are looking at a Union Pacific (UP) move. We will keep
the Post Data until we have confirmed visual information or reported
CT sitting near the I-10 Freeway in UP's Fontana Yard.
Possible UP RUCTID of SKAAN-22.
Depart Ontario (Fontana/Kaiser Yard) UP Alhambra Sub
Pomona (over to LA Sub)
Rose Hills Area
DT Junction (Video of the
Red Unit at this location-below)
Los Nietos Yard
Studebaker Wye (Studebaker Road and Firestone Blvd)
Norwalk (Norwalk CA)
Santa Fe Springs (Carmenita Road, Budget Inn of Santa Fe Springs)
Extension Siding (Anaheim)
West Santa Ana Street (Video
of the Red Unit at this location-below)
South Olive Street
CP College Diamonds
E. Cerritos Avenue.
With the information from the posting above, I was able to use
to locate the Slausen Ave. bridge over the BNSF/UP diamond and watch
the train come down the east side of the San Gabriel River.
Because of the excellent posting of the route of the Red Unit
between Ontario and Anaheim, California, at at the Circus Train Yahoo Group, and excellent directions
given to me by my friend Chris Guenzler (His many rail reports are
at: http://trainweb.org/chris/), I was able to catch the train
underway along side the San Gabriel River at Slauson Avenue on the
border of Pico Rivera, California.
The following is a 10-minute video of the RBBB Red Unit traveling
south down the UP tracks adjacent to the San Gabriel River at Slauson
Avenue and crossing the diamond of the BNSF triple-track that you see
at the bottom of the video. The traffic you see above the circus
train is I-605.
The cars will be in this order, right after the power: 4
Stocks, 35 Coaches, 2 COFC, 19
Lots of horn blowing for the 18 blocks of crossings on Santa Ana
Street plus 5 more blocks on Olive St.
as UP No. 2487 slowly moves with the mile-long Red Unit circus train in
Four stocks (animal cars) lead the consist.
One of the animal handlers enjoys the cooler weather in Anaheim
compared to their last stop in Ontario.
I called, "Welcome to Anaheim," to all the employees enjoying the
vestibules. That brought a smile and a "Thank you."
Next are the coaches with 1/2-car accommodations identifiable by
the center door and vestibule on the end.
I spotted Trainmaster, Brett
Goertemoeller keeping a watchful eye on the move.
He said later that they do not do much street-running so he asked for a
copy of my photos and video of this move through Anaheim.
Looking east along Santa Ana St. in Anaheim, California.
Another train resident. Note the red shield background, the House
Number (50) and the RBBX number all used to identify the cars.
Big cat perches, with elephant tubs underneath, do not need to be
protected from the weather in wagon 51.
Notice the ramps/bridges that are lowered between cars for the
loading/unloading of the wagons.
Large portable generator is part of the equipment.
Cat cages for taking the cats from the outside cages to the inside
performance area drawn by a black tractor while the arena lights direct
the audience's attention elsewhere.
The cats do not travel
on the train, rather they are transported in air conditioned trucks
from arena to arena as part of the 17-truck caravan of off-train
I believe these are mats that cover the arena floor during the
The last flatcar has more than might meet the eye. This cat lifts
and turns on the car to place the plates that become the ramp for
The braces that go under the loading plates are behind this tractor.
So this is always the last car of the flats so the plates can be placed
and the circus wagons can all be pulled off.
It was not long until these switchers followed the circus train to be
used for moving the cuts of coaches, animal cars, and flats.
In Anaheim, the coaches with the
animal cars are placed near Lewis and Katella Avenue and the animals
are trucked to the Honda Center. The flatcars with the circus
wagons are taken to the north entrance to Honda Center where the track
crosses Auto Center Drive. About 5 hours after the train passed
through Anaheim, I went to the Honda Center and found Brett and crew
unloading the circus wagons.
The "circus loading" ramps were set up and many of the circus
wagons had been pulled onto the Center's parking lot.
Soon Brett arrived with a set of circus wagons and Jr. kept a close eye
on the ramps.
When the circus wagons have items stored below the box, between
the axles, the clearance is very close as they come off the flatcar.
Each circus wagon
has 3 solid rubber wheels in each corner. Since
the wagons are towed directly into the parking lot of the Honda Center,
there is no need to hire tow trucks to pull them on city streets to an
arena as in other towns.
Once the tow vehicle has reached the edge of the crossing, it can
make a 90-degree turn and go into the parking lot.
For these big circus wagons, there is a pusher vehicle to help get
them across all the flatcars and down the ramp.
Since the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center
(ARTIC) is just across Katella Ave. from the Honda Center,
I stopped for a photograph on the way home.
After the train crew unloaded the
circus wagons on Wednesday and the staff spent the usual 12 hours
setting up the Honda Center for the performances, and the UP switchers
put the coaches, animal cars, and flat cars in their place for the stay
in Anaheim, I returned to the train's location on Saturday.
I located Trainmaster Brett's shop car that included his office,
No. 58. It was identifiable by the American flag proudly
displayed at the center door and ladder down to ground level. In
Anaheim, the coaches are set in two lengths on side-by-side
double track. They are aligned so that if you need to go to the
other set, the vestibules are precisely aligned so you can pass through
both sets easily...with a little climbing. A bus near the north
end of the two sets takes performers to the Honda Center for, on this
Saturday, 3 performances. In addition to the Pie Car (Short Order
cafe car), the circus carries a Pie Car Jr. (trailer) that can provide
food for the performers and crew between performances at the
venue. In Anaheim, at the Honda Center, there is food available
so the Pie Car Jr. can be cleaned or refitted back at trainside as
needed during the stay.
Shop car and Trainmaster's Office
Coach cars set for the performance days with step stools and trash bags
at each entrance.
Typical Southern California view of the stationary circus train with
clear blue sky and a lone California Palm.
This car is two half-car units with the telltale center door.
Since there is an active track on this side, for safety, the step
stools are on the opposite side, between the two cuts of the circus
A new red shield that I have not seen before.
The "X" stands for any privately owned piece of RR rolling stock, as
opposed to a railroad "carrier" company.
(Thanks to Rhett Coates for this RR fact.)
(Disclaimer: the window in the photo above had the
required "Emergency Exit Window," but I removed it in this photo.)
This shield is more historic and shows its age.
The weathered, classic red unit
(Disclaimer: the window had the required "Emergency
Exit Window," but I removed it in this photo.)
Anyone who travels by train knows
there is always a lot of hoofing involved. I realized that
walking long distances is even more prevalent if you are a resident on
the circus train. While I was at the coaches, I noticed two young
mothers each pushing a child in a stroller from the coaches onto
the sidewalk along Katella Avenue. I thought maybe they were
going somewhere to catch a bus or meet a cab.
I left the train and drove east on Katella. I pulled into
Starbucks on Katella at the entrance to Angels Stadium. When I
walked in, there were the two young mothers with their strollers and
two children. Any doubt as to whether they were the same two I
had seen earlier was disbursed when I saw a Ringling Bros. and Barnum
& Bailey sticker on one of the strollers.
After introducing myself and giving them my business card, I asked if
they lived on the circus train and if they were performers. They
said they were the wives of the trampoline act from the Ukraine. (Art on Trampoline)
That means part of the 280 people who live on the train are families of
performers. I do remember that the circus has a teacher for the
school-age children who live on the train.
After chatting and taking photos of their children, I drove on east
toward the Honda Center and saw them making their way there, perhaps to
see their husbands in one of the three performances they do on this
Saturday. That means they had a 2-mile walk, one way, from the
train to the Honda Center. It was 92 degrees this day, but they
said it was not hot.
Their husbands have been on an earlier circus visit to Anaheim, so I
promised to look up some performance photos of them to send them.
Future trampoline circus act members like their dads?
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Red Unit Circus Xtreme Performance at the Honda Center,
Anaheim, California, July 29, 2015.
90 minutes before the performance the circus has an Animal Open
House. I was too late to see it this year, but Ringling has a
video of it at: Click Here
An hour before the 7:30 performance there was a pre-show when the
audience can come down on the arena floor and meet some of the
performers and get autographs in the large program books that are for
sale. All the concessions are open and vendors are walking around
Ryan Henning talked about the elephants in the Pre-Show as well as
during the performance itself.
For Ringling's video about the animal care at their new Winter
Quarters, Click Here.
Animal Trainer and Tiger Presenter
Taba Maluenda mesmerizes Children Of All Ages with his energy and
passion during Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus
XTREME. Taba’s catchphrase, “Azúcar!” — meaning “sugar” or “sweet” — is
a crowd favorite, and illustrates his remarkable ability to communicate
and bond with his animal partners. It’s a mutual admiration felt in
In this new show, Taba is taking his act to a new level by adding
tricks that are totally unique like having his tigers leap over him as
he holds a handstand.
When he gives one of his 300-pound tigers a kiss, where others see
danger, he sees family. There’s no doubt Taba is connected to his
extended animal family, as feeding and caring for them is a 24/7 job.
But, as he says, “I love the animals and I love my job.”
The young Chilean began his circus career at the age of 13 as an
acrobat, leaving school to help support his family. Yo me sabía la
rutina, los nombres de los animales como una cámara fotográfica. He
spent all of his off-time with the animal trainers, watching them work
and observing the animals. His mother, a sixth-generation trapeze
artist, didn’t want her young son to follow in the footsteps of her
grandfather, a tiger trainer. But for Taba, after watching the great
animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams perform on TV with Ringling Bros.
and Barnum & Bailey, there was no looking back.
Born with a connection to animals, fate intervened one day when the
original trainer didn’t show up, and Taba, only 15 years old, stepped
into a cage as a fill-in and worked with leopards, tigers and a lion
without his mother’s knowledge. He says that at first he was scared,
but as the fear became respect, he knew he had found his calling. As
the years went by, he gained more and more experience.
Taba explains, “You have to learn to feel what the animal needs. A
trainer can only perceive what their needs are. The tiger will show the
trainer what he can and will do. But the training starts in the back,
cleaning the cage, washing the animal, feeding it.” He was eventually
put in charge of all the animals of the circus, which included
elephants and horses.
After 20 years of performing, Taba had a chance meeting with Kenneth
Feld, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® owner and producer. He
was surprised that Mr. Feld recognized him. Not long after that chance
meeting, Taba got the opportunity of his dreams, to follow in the
footsteps of his hero, Gunther Gebel-Williams. He says, “I achieved
something great in joining The Greatest Show On Earth®. For me, the
circus is my life. It’s everything!
At 7:30, the announcement came to find our seats and get ready for
the Greatest Show on Earth.
Desert Goddesses - Mongolian
Robert Stipka - Horse and Camel Trainer and Presenter
Tuvshinsaikhan Tsogtkhuu - Leader
A seventh generation animal trainer, who was born and raised in a
traditional circus family who trained horses for circus and equestrian
shows, Robert Stipka grew up under the big top and learned directly
from his father and grandfather, both renowned horse and exotic animal
trainers. “But it wasn’t just my family who taught me all I know, it
was the horses I worked with too. Each horse showed me a different way
to train, the horses were my best teachers,” said Robert.
Robert’s passion for animals, specifically horses, began at just three
years-old. Robert’s father wanted to build his young son’s confidence
and comfort around the horses, so Robert started to ride as a child.
Soon after, when his father was confident that Robert could handle
himself, he was presented with a pony, and as Robert’s skills and
abilities increased, by age 10 he was given a Friesian to work with and
take care of. By the time he was 12, Robert was working hard to help
his family care for and train horses, as well as performing a Dressage
act in the circus with his Friesian.
Robert went on to work with the biggest circuses throughout Europe. He
also was awarded the coveted Golden Clown award in 2008 at the famous
Monte Carlo Festival for an acrobatic horse act.
“You need to have to have the special bond, if you don’t have the bond,
you can’t learn it. You need to have nature inside you, it’s a gift. I
have no words. This is so special to me, not everyone can do what I do,
because of the feeling and patience. This is a gift I have.”
While touring and working in Europe, Robert met his fiancée, Krisztina
Nagy, a singer, who at the time was entertaining audiences at the same
circus where Robert was presenting exotic animals. “Krisztina began to
help me with the animals, she was willing to learn and I can tell, she
was natural, she’s got the feeling too. She’s very important to me, the
act and the horses.”
Robert and Krisztina spend the majority of their time overseeing the
care of the camels and horses of Ringling Bros. and Barnum &
Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME. Robert presents the new one-of-a-kind
display which features the Mongolian riding troupe atop six Bactrian
“I’m doing what I love, with the woman I love, working with the animals
I love. I hope to do this till my last day. I’m very blessed.”
This all-female riding troupe, featuring Tuvshinsaikhan Tsogtkhuu,
Amarzaya Batsaikhan, Binderiya Batsaikhan, Enkhgerel Otgonchimeg, Tuul
Gantumur and Uyanga Ganbold, is a unique group. All accomplished
horseback riders; they met at the horse farm and riding school run by
Tuvshinsaikhan (Saina’s) father. A number of the troupe members
performed on horseback in a production in South Korea about Genghis
Khan featuring 60 riders on horseback.
In addition to their riding skills, these talented young ladies are
also competitive horseback archers. Saina and Tuul were awarded the
coveted Horseback Archers Award from the Mongolian government.
Successfully transferring their horse riding techniques to camel riding
in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Circus XTREME, these
skilled women do a series of tricks and maneuvers on and around the
camels’ double humps. When asked about the difference between riding
horses and camels, Saina says, “The camels are much more difficult to
train. We had to adapt our horseback riding skills for this new show.”
The women enjoy riding the camels, and have developed a special bond
with their animals. The camels recognize them, and approach them as
soon as the women enter the barn to receive carrots and vegetables.
Four of the ladies have the opportunity to show off their riding and
shooting roots in the opening of the show; launching flaming arrows
while atop beautiful white horses which illuminate the arena and open
On tour with The Greatest Show On Earth®, the women look forward to
seeing the United States. “We’re excited to travel,” says Saina. “I’d
never been on a train before I got here, and now I’m living on one.”
Danguir Troupe Highwire
Danguir Troupe - High-wire
Anna Lebedeva (f)
Miguel Angel Pereda Fernandez
One of the most extreme acts in the 145th Edition Ringling Bros. and
Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME, the Danguir Troupe scales
the highest heights and crosses the most perilous divides on a wire no
wider than a human thumb! The brave daredevil wire-walkers ascend to a
height that is more than twenty feet above the arena floor by climbing
a steep, incline wire.
“Our act requires that we have an extreme amount of trust in each
other. When we are on the wire, we have to work as a team. Every
movement sends a ripple effect that is felt by each member of our
troupe. We have to be absolutely synchronized,” says troupe leader
Mustafa’s dream is to cross the Seven Wonders of the World on the high
wire. Mustafa holds many high-wire world records. He crossed the
Santiago Bernabéu soccer stadium in Madrid, Spain. He kicked off a
high-wire bike tour in Benidorm, Spain, that started from the top of
the Gran Hotel Bali Benidorm and ended at the top of the Church of St.
James, a distance of one mile and more than 540 feet in the air. He
also crossed a distance of 1,150 feet between two mountains in New York
and has crossed Alexanderplatz, the large city plaza in Berlin, Germany.
When Mustafa was 14 years old, he was invited to study at one of the
largest circus schools in Spain. A natural acrobat, Mustafa tried other
skills, but his first calling was the trapeze. As a thrill-seeker, it
wasn’t long before Mustafa was awestruck by the Guerrero Wire Act. “The
danger Guerrero created was great, wow! Tremendous. I saw him and
decided I wanted to do that,” Mustafa exclaims.
From 1996 to 1998, Mustafa performed the world-famous seven-man-pyramid
act with the Guerrero troupe at Ringling Bros. and Barnum &
Bailey®. He learned how the group worked, put together his own troupe
and built his own act. However, for the type of performance Mustafa had
in mind, a high level of trust was needed between the performers. Each
performer would have to think about the other person’s safety even more
than his or her own well-being. The performers would have to support
each other both physically and emotionally. Mustafa recruited his
brother Abdelhamid, who watched Mustafa, studied videos and eventually
was practicing on a high-wire set up at home. Their friends Acharf and
Mohamed joined them next. They started their training learning how to
fall from the wire onto the net and also breaking the instinct of
falling from the wire. Human instinct is to fall sideways off the high
wire, they had to practice falling forward and backward onto the wire.
Not long after, Anna Lebedeva, a sixth-generation Russian circus
acrobat who worked with camels, fell in love with both wire-walking and
Mustafa. She decided to learn the high wire. With that, the Danguir
Troupe was complete!
The Danguir Troupe is thrilled to be returning to The Greatest Show On
Earth®. “Ringling Bros. is to circus performers what Hollywood is to
actors,” Mustafa asserts. “It’s the biggest opportunity to perform in
the major cities of the United States, to be part of the long history
of Ringling Bros., doing what we love to do.”
Ringmaster David Shipman
Ringling Bros. and Barnum &
Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME is led by the extraordinary David
Shipman, who will take audiences on an adventure to discover the most
extraordinary circus artists and the always-popular exotic animals,
revealing performances that defy gravity and imagination. David not
only announces each performance, he also provides the soundtrack as the
lead singer of what he calls “the most astounding ensemble of
musicians” he has ever worked with. “The music in this show is amazing!
It’s extremely youthful and energized,” says David, “and it fits
perfectly with the performances in the show which are totally unique
and provide a real wow factor.”
David first learned about Ringmaster
auditions through Facebook, but, as it turned out, completely missed
the audition. Determined to not pass up this opportunity, he emailed
Ringling Bros.® directly to see if there was any chance he could still
try out. "This wasn't your typical role & this is for The Greatest
Show On Earth®. I had to take the chance," added David. He immediately
caught the attention of Ringling Bros. talent scouts and producers,
Nicole Feld and Alana Feld. Soon after, David was brought in to meet
renowned director Fred Tallaksen. After impressing him as well, David
was offered the job to lead Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®
Presents FULLY CHARGEDSM, Gold Edition.
Originally from Pensacola, Florida,
David's love for the circus was ignited as a child when his family took
him to a Ringling Bros. production when he was only two-and-a-half
years old. "Going to Ringling Bros. was one of my earliest memories. I
remember the lights, the colors, the clowns – even the Ringmaster!,”
explained David. “What makes this so cyclical for me is that on my
first year touring with The Greatest Show On Earth, we performed in my
hometown at the exact same arena where I saw that first show!”
David attended a magnet school
focused on the performing arts where his first solo was at age seven.
He continued to grow as member of the Pensacola Children's Chorus,
where he performed in front of thousands. David's passion for
performing grew and as a teen he was always involved in theater. These
experiences, he says, molded him into the performer he is today.
After college, David put performing
on the back-burner. He told himself it was just a hobby as he began to
feel the pressure to figure out his life's direction. As a result, he
ended up taking a position where he felt hopelessly unfulfilled.
Sensing her son’s dissatisfaction, his mother Karen, encouraged him to
do what he loved and go back to his performing roots. "I made a
resolution to myself at the beginning of the year that I would put
myself out there and take more chances. I've always known that I loved
to perform, but I'm older now and I was worried about rejection. I was
scared," explains David.
David dipped his toe into the
professional theater circuit in Orlando, Florida, and within three
months had successfully transitioned from a desk job doing local
theater at night, to a cast member of more than six professional shows.
David became a full-time performer with credits in shows like Les
Misérables and A Chorus Line – his two favorite productions, which he
terms as the "most challenging and rewarding" of his career thus far.
"And with Ringling Bros., I now have
this incredible opportunity to tour the United States and see places
that I'd never have had the opportunity to see ? it's amazing! It's
been a whirlwind. It almost doesn't feel real, like it's happening to
someone else.” confirms Shipman.
And his number-one fan, his mom
Karen, is totally thrilled.
The Jet - The
During rehearsals for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents
Circus XTREME, Gemma “The Jet” Kirby celebrated her one year
“cannonversary” – 365 days of performing as a human cannonball and
being shot out of a cannon more than 400 times. The 25-year-old
describes the past few years of her life as “an incredible and
To accomplish her amazingly extreme act, Gemma meticulously inspects
the cannon before every performance and goes through a detailed
checklist of safety precautions. “Being shot out of the cannon is
exactly the kind of adrenaline rush you would expect it to be,” she
says, “but it is a huge thrill every time, I love it!”
Gemma describes herself as a thrill-seeker who has many extreme hobbies
such as skydiving, snowboarding, scuba diving and travelling to exotic
places. She recently took a solo backpacking trip through Thailand.
Born in Minneapolis, MN, and having moved a total of 15 times as a
child, Gemma seems to have been bred for circus life. Growing up, she
traveled from her home state of Minnesota to places like South Dakota
and Alaska, often sharing a bedroom with her two sisters.
Gemma was homeschooled until the 11th grade when she began to attend
the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts. A young graduate (and
valedictorian) at 16 years old, she enrolled at Circus Juventas in St.
Paul to explore a new passion: the flying trapeze. It was here Gemma
developed a love of the aerial arts and sought to combine her dance
experience with a new kind of mid-air choreography. After four years
working on the apparatus, she appeared in the 2011-2012 season of Big
Gemma stays fit on the road by running, doing Pilates and strength
training, and she believes in challenging her mind along with her
physicality. Obtaining her B.A. in Psychology from the University of
Minnesota in 2012, she feels confident that she would be working toward
a graduate school degree involving American Sign Language (ASL) if she
hadn’t joined the circus.
Gemma enjoys speaking to groups of kids all over the United States and
hopes her story will inspire them. “In particular, I try to encourage
young girls that they can do anything they set their minds to and not
to let themselves be limited by traditional gender roles,” says Gemma.
When asked how she would want her personal legacy to read, Gemma Kirby
said she would like to be remembered as someone who led a fascinating
life and left a positive impact on the world.
Alex & Irina
Comedic Duo and Mixed Animal Act
Alex and Irina have spent years creating never-before-seen acts full of
comedy, animals, magic and dynamic athleticism. In the 145th Edition of
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME. Alex
and Irina will lead audiences on an adventure exploring the world to
discover circus extremes.
Alex was born in Moscow to a working-class family. His uncle was a
circus clown, and when Alex watched his uncle perform, he was moved.
“He looked so nice and had so many stories about the circus; he had
seen so many things. My eyes were opened to the possibility of
opportunity,” Alex explained.
Soon after, Alex traveled to Ukraine to attend an elite professional
circus school, where the coursework was challenging and the students
competitive. He excelled and was soon invited to join the Nikulin
Circus, where he impressed the director and was immediately brought on
as an artist.
Irina and her brother, originally from Moscow, are second-generation
circus performers, who grew up under the tutelage of their famous
animal-trainer father. “By the time I was a young girl, I had my own
monkey act,” Irina reflected. On touring, she admitted, “I can’t stay
in one place for long; I think there’s a nomadic animal in my blood.”
Alex and Irina met while performing in circus shows. She was presenting
her monkey act and Alex was a clown. After several years of touring,
Alex decided he wanted to leave the circus to focus on building and
strengthening his magical comedy act, and he needed a partner. Alex and
Irina haven’t been apart since, and that was fifteen years ago.
Alex was confident his magical comedy act was as perfect as it could
be. And the pair was recognized by fans and peers with various awards
and accolades. Even with this success, Alex and Irina still returned to
Russia to assemble a new animal act. They spent several years training
large and small poodle puppies. Once the act was perfected, they spent
several years working with the Moscow State Circus along with their
extended family. During this time, Alex, who understood the importance
of honing and acquiring new skills, studied at the Russian Academy of
Arts. He graduated with a degree in Circus Production.
Already an accomplished performer, Irina felt ready to truly commit to
developing her comedic character. Alex was ready too, “I’m the teacher,
and she is the student. She was ready to learn.” Irina continued to
build confidence and skills. It was then that Alex, who considers
himself the architect of their act, felt that all the pieces fit
together. “We were real and authentic; everything felt natural,” he
said. The pair decided to take their new act out on an American tour.
Irina loves visiting her favorite places in America, including New
Orleans, Las Vegas, Broadway, and enjoys shopping for the latest
fashions, too. After their first Ringling Bros.® tour, her fellow
performers voted her “Best Dressed” in their year-end awards.
In addition to their love for travel and performance, they are crazy
for American culture. “America is a great machine of shows and
productions. We’ve watched thousands of movies.” In fact, they love
American movies so much; they named all of their dogs after famous
actors. Extraordinarily happy to be invited to return to Ringling
Bros., Alex and Irina couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments.
“We are finally here, and we are strong. We have created a stable
groundwork; we built these acts, piece by piece. It’s the foundation of
who we are. We’ve worked our whole lives for this,” says Alex.
Mongolian Marvels - Strongman, Throat Singing, Contortion and Hand
Seventeen performers are featured in a one-of-a-kind showcase that
combines the Mongolian cultural style of the strongman, the ancient art
of throat singing, the skill of contortion, the circus acrobatics of
hand voltige and the traditional style of Mongolian dance, all with a
modern twist that takes this presentation to the extreme. “We bring
together different components of Mongolian history, culture and sports
all in one,” says Batbayar Bor. “To put this troupe together, we
searched all over Mongolia for the most talented artists with the most
extreme skills who can showcase their skills for Ringling Bros.®
The strongmen, Gantig-Erdene Batnasan, Otgonjargal Dolgorjav and
Gankhuyag Ganbaatar juggle 100 lb. kettle bells like they are a child’s
toys. They toss them back and forth, and even catch them with the backs
of their necks. One of the strongmen picks up a 200-pound barbell,
tosses it in the air and spins it around his body like a drum major
would a baton. In an absolute showing of strength and determination,
Otgonjargal lifts a bar weighted with four 100-lb. kettle bells, as
well as four of the acrobats, with his teeth, lifting a massive
combination of over 1,000 lbs. Prior to performing with the circus, the
strongmen trained as competitive wrestlers.
Contortion has been a staple of the Mongolian circus arts for many
years. These four women, Elberel Sukhbaatar, Purevsuren Tumendemberel,
Davaanyam Luvsandorj and Nominchuluun Uvgunkhuu, are excellent examples
of this ancient circus art. They perform an adagio of contortion,
acrobalance and synchronized ballet. With their graceful moves and
choreographed turns and twists, they move together to form odd but
beautiful contorted poses. In more complicated formations involving
everyone in the act, they are lifted by the strongmen. They also come
together to perform a three-person-high inverted pyramid, bending into
Using the ancient skill of hand voltige (acrobatic hand balancing), the
troupe showcase skills of balance, strength and dexterity in which they
literally toss each other from one person to the other as the flyer
flips mid-air, performing moves similar to cheerleading baskets tosses
with airborne somersaults. The final moments of this act display
monumental physical strength, focus and beauty as the troupe maneuvers
into a pyramid five people high.
Throat singer, Nyam Dashdendev, performs this ancient art - known as
“Khoomii” - that is unique only to Mongolia. There is secret training
involved in making the unique sound. He also studied the Morin Khuur
instrument which is incorporated into the presentation. He performs a
song that is tells the story of the history of Genghis Khan, Mongolian
heroes, strong horses and great kings.
This act was originally conceived by Khatanbaatar Chuluuntsend while
attending the Monte Carlo Circus Festival. Inspired by what he saw, he
imagined this combined act would grab the attention of the circus
world, and he's done just that. “To have the ability to showcase
Mongolia for audiences of The Greatest Show On Earth® is a dream come
true,” says Batbayar Bor. “To be a part of Ringling Bros. is what we’ve
been aspiring to our whole lives.”
lifts a bar weighted with four 100-lb. kettle bells, as well as four of
the acrobats, with his teeth,
lifting a massive combination of over
There are about 13 clowns in the
troupe. You can see a writeup on the individual clowns by
They are always present during the pre-show, the performance,
intermission, etc. Here are a few that I caught in action:
any clown image for a larger copy. Click BACK in your browser to
return to this page.)
The Band plays live music
throughout the 2-hour show. To me this is a most demanding
musical assignment, especially the 3-a-days on weekends. They
never miss a beat and I wonder if most guests realize that the music is
live. The Ringmaster introduces them during the show and this is
when I photographed them.
Aerial Stargazers and
Hanna Fatieieva Anhelina Hovazhenko Olha Peresada Elina Sidletska Kateryna Zinchenko Yevheniia
Klimantova Nadejhda (Nadia) Tarasova
As if descending from the heavens,
elegant aerialists join acrobatic forces to perform two artistic
displays that are the epitome of grace and beauty. Talented artists
from Russia and Ukraine, perform an acro-ballet of bungee sky diving
that is a mash-up of synchronized circus skills. A hanging, metallic
orb suspended high above the arena floor provides the gymnastic
apparatus for an original and thrilling aerial presentation.
The orb presentation is performed on
a specially designed spinning apparatus that was created specifically
for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME. The
troupe includes, Hanna Fatieieva, Anhelina Hovazhenko, Olha Peresada,
Elina Sidletska Kateryna Zinchenko, Yevheniia Klimantova and Nadejhda
(Nadia) Tarasova who perform together in this beautiful display. Five
women perform on a giant, floating orb, over eight feet in diameter,
while the other two perform individually on smaller orbs, executing
spins, splits and acrobatic maneuvers.
“Creating an aerial ballet on the orb
and the bungee was a natural extension of our rhythmic gymnastics
background,” says Yevheniia. “We really take it to the extreme. It was
a little nerve-racking be up high above the ring the first few times,
but now it feels right, like we were meant to perform in the air.”
The women studied rhythmic gymnastics
at the prestigious Ukrainian National University of Physical Education
and Sports and joined the tour of Ringling Bros. and Barnum &
Bailey Presents Built to Amaze®. They return to wow audiences with
their newest presentation in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Presents Circus XTREME.
The ladies have learned to love
American culture. Elina says watching the Vampire Diaries is one of her
favorite pastimes and Kateryna mentions swimming as her favorite hobby.
When she’s not performing, Olha likes to cook and is known for making
Ukrainian Borscht, cakes and many different dishes. “So far, we love
everything about America,” says Hanna. “We can’t wait to continue on
the tour and explore the country.”
“Performing this act in Circus XTREME
really gets my adrenaline flowing,” says Olha. “Aerial acts are always
extreme, but this one is really special,” adds Yevheniia.
The Great Ibarra- Pendulum
Flying high above the arena floor on
the Pendulum of Steel is daredevil Benny Ibarra. Traditionally, the
wheel presentation is performed with two acrobats, one suspended on
either side of the whirling apparatus. Benny performs on the Pendulum
of Steel in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus
XTREME solo, taking this circus skill to the extreme, requiring more
control and quick execution of forward flips, back flips and
somersaults. He also jumps rope both inside and outside the wheel. The
performance is five minutes of fast-paced non-stop energy and
excitement. In the most extreme move of the display, Benny performs a
front flip outside the wheel with no safety harness.
A native of Mexico City, Benny hails from a circus family. He explains,
“My grandfather inspired me to do what I do.”
His first experience in front of an audience was at Circus World Museum
in Baraboo, Wisconsin, when he was five years old. “That’s where I
learned English,” he says. He hasn’t stopped performing since then,
playing to audiences around the world for the last 25 years.
When he is not performing, Benny enjoys spending time with his
daughter, playing chess, watching soccer and playing Yugio.
Taba Maluenda, Tiger
Art On Trampoline
Returning to The Greatest Show On Earth® for their second tour, the Art
On Trampoline troupe is comprised of professionally trained, champion
athletes hailing from universities throughout Ukraine with disciplines
in gymnastics, fast-track and trampoline. The troupe founder had the
creative idea to combine powerful acrobatics, two trampolines and a
15-foot tower. “We wanted to create an original act that combined all
the skills of the troupe members,” says troupe leader Oleksii.
The troupe includes Oleksii Velykanov, Vyacheslav Tronin, Leonid
Matsyuk, Iegor Bykov, Ruslan Zoria, Pavlo Barchuk and Ihor Komarov.
While performing and touring Europe together, the troupe was seen and
recruited by Ringling Bros.® talent scouts, who were impressed with
this skilled and death-defying act.
The extreme act is part of a freestyle sports display in the finale of
the newest Ringling Bros. production. Together with BMX bikers,
slackline gymnastic masters and free running / parkour acrobats, this
troupe will flip, vault and propel themselves in the exciting finale of
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME.
Having toured together for over four years, the troupe created new act
elements to take their act to the extreme for this new production. Each
troupe member learned the choreography at their own pace so they could
master the combinations which require perfected timing, calculated
strength and precision control. The troupe uses the trampolines as
spring boards to catapult their bodies in a series of synchronized, but
also, freestyle aerial tumbling moves where they dive over, around and
even through the translucent, 15-foot high tower positioned between the
In their spare time, members of the troupe like to read, cook, workout
and learn new circus skills from their fellow performers. They are
excited to continue to improve their English, and are thrilled to be in
America with the opportunity to live on the Ringling Bros.® circus
train, and return to so many of their favorite cities, including Las
Vegas, NYC, Hollywood and Miami.
Thank you for coming to "The Greatest Show on Earth"
Last sighting of the Red Unit of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum
Bailey Circus for 2015 at Yale St. Bridge, Irvine, California, August
2, 2015 on its move from Anaheim to San Diego, California about 2:30
p.m. Thanks to Chris Guenzler and Christy Walker for showing me
the shortcut to the Yale St. bridge for this excellent photo location.
Thanks to two fellows who made this report possible:
Rhett Coates, left, and Brett Goertemoeller
Photos from Rhett Coates
"Brett and Rhett" outside the Red Unit's
train in Richmond, Va. during February 2014 -- with the "combined
shows" (Red Unit PIE CAR and Blue Unit GENERATOR CAR).