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Winners See Feeding Time At Circus Up Close
[April 27, 2006]

Winners See Feeding Time At Circus Up Close


(The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 27--BLOOMINGTON -- Daniel Kelley's mouth dropped open as Mysore, a 7,200-pound Asian elephant, stepped on a watermelon, squashing it into tiny pieces. With its huge trunk, the elephant pulled pieces of the melon into its mouth, rind and all.



"It's not scary," Daniel, 9, proclaimed.

Sister Sarah Kelley, 12, was snapping pictures while Daniel looked on in amazement Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. She also was impressed.


"They are enormous," Sarah said.

Sarah noted something else about the elephants: Their table manners were terrible.

"Wouldn't it be cool to be animals like that with no manners?" she asked.

However, the sixth-grader soon discovered a flaw in that logic.

"It wouldn't be very hygienic," she said.

Mother Jill Kelley of Bloomington agreed and added, "The kids are having fun, and so am I."

Jill Kelley won a chance to watch the elephants eat Wednesday afternoon in a contest co-sponsored by The Pantagraph and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which is at the Coliseum in Bloomington through Sunday. The winners also received four tickets each to Wednesday night's show.

People attending the shows also have a chance to attend a pre-show that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the circus performers and animals.

Joanna Wilbee, circus publicist, said things like the elephant feeding and the pre-show help "create memories."

"It helps the circus-goers have a different perspective," she said, adding that performers also enjoy it.

Kelley said she entered the contest to give her children "an experience they'd never forget."

Tina Veal of Bloomington was another winner and said her son Brady, 3, loved watching the elephants eat.

Another winner, Beth Yoder of Hudson, brought grandsons Drew Morgan, 5, of Hudson and Jackson Yoder, 3, of Bloomington.

At the afternoon event, elephant trainer Billy Morris, who's spent his entire life around ele-phants, made sure everybody stayed behind a tape that kept them far enough away from the elephants to avoid any danger.

Apples, grapes and bananas were among the snacks spread on a table. Watermelons were on the floor.

Joining Mysore in the feast was Angelica, a mere 5,100 pounds. Both Mysore, 60, and Angelica, 8, were scheduled to perform later in the circus.

Beside elephants, the one-ring circus features horses and dogs and high-wire, trapeze and clown acts.

Peg Doran, who came to the show from Odell, brought seven children, not all her own. She said the pre-show was worthwhile.

"We got to see them (the performers) up close," she said.

Performers signed autographs and talked with patrons while giving them a close-up preview of what was to come.

Gymnasts did splits and handstands, a juggler performed and a dog leaped to catch flying disks.

Though some patrons sat in their seats during the hourlong pre-show, many crowded around the single ring. Others walked through a backstage area to see horses and elephants up close.

At the circus

What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Where: U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Bloomington

When: 6:30 p.m. today and Friday; 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Saturday; and noon and 3:30 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: Start at $13. Go to www.ringling.com, www.uscellularcoliseum.com, or the Coliseum box office. Call (866) 891-9992.

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