Loomis Brothers Circus Brings New Audiences to Georgia | Georgia News


By JOE HOTCHKISS, The Chronicle of Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – The only three-track circus in North America arrives in Columbia County on June 29.

Its co-founder and track master hopes it won’t be the last circus.

“A lot of people have forgotten what the circus is, especially the younger generation,” said Justin Loomis of Loomis Brothers Circus. “Our job is basically to remind everyone and educate them. Once they know what it is, they want to go.

Loomis and his father started their circus in 1997, building on decades of experience in the business through performances and event promotion for traveling shows. About 50 employees work for Loomis Brothers, including the acrobats, acrobats, animal trainers and clowns who form the core of a traditional circus performance.

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Circuses once captured the attention of entire communities. With exotic animals and daring performers, large performing troupes have invaded towns by rail and marched through streets lined with curious people.

When Loomis’ father and great-uncle performed in traveling circuses decades ago, crowds of 10,000 were not unusual, Loomis said. In recent years, “what we got, 1,000 people or 2,000 people if we were lucky.”

“We were in Ohio and we basically had the carpet under us. We were closed, we were done, ”Loomis said. “We sent everyone home, and I’ll tell you it was a very strange feeling because we never did that. We never just stopped.

Running a business that is out of the ordinary can pose challenges that are out of the ordinary. Loomis discovered this when applying for a Paycheck Protection Program loan to help stay afloat during the pandemic.

“All the big companies absorbed it immediately. Our accountant applied for us right away, but it was the expiration of funds and we didn’t get anything, ”Loomis said. “We were in such a strange situation. We didn’t even know which category we belonged to. So we were autonomous all the time.

The members of the circus still had to eat, some more than others. An elephant can eat 30 to 40 pounds of produce and three or four 50-pound bales of hay each day, sprayed with about 30 gallons of water.

“I’m opening my door right now, I have three elephants standing here,” Loomis said.

Animal rights groups would like the elephants to be elsewhere. For years, organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have made allegations of cruelty and deprivation in circuses that maintain acts of trained animals.

In June 2018, the University of South Carolina Aiken banned animal performances after a two-day appearance by the Loomis Brothers at the school’s Convocation Center. PETA had urged USC Aiken weeks before the court appearance to declare the ban.

Loomis Brothers take pride in their well-groomed elephants, tigers and ponies, Loomis said.

“A lot of people don’t know this, especially in a family business like ours. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a lifestyle we’ve chosen. It’s a passion and we love these animals. They have been with us their entire lives and we take care of them every day, ”said Loomis. “People think, ‘Oh, they put them in a little cage and they force them to do tricks, then they load them into a hot truck and they don’t come out until the next day.’ It’s not like that. It’s not even close to that. They are part of the family.

When the legendary Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus opted in 2016 to no longer use stage elephants, Loomis said, it spelled the end of the organization.

“After that, ticket sales declined so much that they didn’t even break even,” he said.

In 2017, Ringling Brothers – the entertainment company that helped weave the traditional circus so tightly into American fabric – folded its tent after 146 years.

“I never thought in my life that I would see this go away,” Loomis said. “I was in shock when they decided to shut down the show.”

Today there are eight, maybe ten, traditional circuses in America, Loomis said. Besides Loomis Brothers, two other troops could be on tour.

“Some of them haven’t reopened since COVID yet and I’m not sure if they will ever do so,” he said.

Movies, television, video games, and the Internet have helped divert consumers’ entertainment tastes from the circus tent.

But Loomis said he’s noticed something since his band started performing again last summer in Missouri, one of the first states to ease social distancing policies.

Attendance seems to be increasing.

“Now it’s coming back. It seems that since we started again after COVID, people are coming out by the thousands to see the circus. They’re interested in live entertainment again, ”he said. “It kind of woke people up. It’s like, ‘Wow, we have to go out and do something instead of just sitting here.’

“You have to have a passion for it. It is not an easy life, but it is a good life. Loomis said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

The Loomis Brothers Circus will perform at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on June 29 and 30 at the Columbia County Exhibition Center, 212 Partnership Drive, Grovetown. A $ 25 bill admits one adult and up to two children ages 2 to 12. Tickets for each additional child cost $ 8. All seats are general admission. For more information, see https://loomiscircus.com.

Copyright 2021 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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