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UB hosts UniverSoul Circus

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photos by Joyce Kryszak
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By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-976293.mp3

Buffalo, NY –

Cars are being temporarily re-directed away from part of the Park and Ride lot at UB's South campus for the next few days. But there will still be some rather unusual traffic in the parking lot.

If you drive past UB's South Campus over the next couple days, no need for a double take. Yes, those are tigers and elephants in the parking lot along Main Street.

And they have company. The multi-cultural UniverSoul Circus has rolled into town with dozens of trailers, about 100 live performers and crew. And, of course, the Big Top.

Econuel Ingram, the Circus' marketing representative, said they are a well-oiled machine. The 18-year old circus performs about 500 shows over 40 weeks of the year in about 32 cities.

This is their fourth time in Buffalo, but their first at the UB location.

The country's only African American owned and operated circus previously held shows at MLK Park and the Central Park Plaza. But Ingram said they wanted to reach out to a broader audience. He says the "soul" in UniverSoul Circus does not stand for ethnic.

"Soul is the spirit of fun and happiness and it's cool...it's just it's an exciting multi-cultural (show) for families of all ages," said Ingram.

Ingram said he is especially excited about the shows they do in Buffalo. He is a Buffalo native who left town years ago to do PR in other states. One of his clients was Cedric Walker, the future founder of UniverSoul Circus.

"In 1994 he came up with this idea to start a circus, and I said, I'm in...so, in 1994 I ran away with the circus. I love it. People think they work with clowns - I work with clowns - literally," said Ingram.

But ingram said audiences get to see much more than clowns. The multi-cultural circus has live performers from all over the globe. And Ingram said the acts are truly breathtaking.

"They are going to see stilt-walkers... they're going to see aerial acts, tight rope acts...Russian teeter-board act, Chinese cyclists," said Ingram.

But for many circus lovers it is the big beasts that brings them to the Big Top. This show features African elephants and tigers, including an albino.

Walter Montes from South America is a tiger handler, who has worked with circuses for 20 years. He feeds and cares for the magnificent creatures. And he stands guard by their cages all day to make sure they and everyone else stays safe.

When asked if it bothers him to see the tigers confined in such small cages, Montes said they are happy and content in their cages sleeping most of the day.

"At the end of the tour we go to the ranch and they have a big cage there, everyone together playing in a big room," said Montes.

But there are some who do not agree. The animal rights group PETA has announced it will be on-hand throughout the run of the circus to protest what they said is cruel treatment of circus animals.

UB officials said they will have an area cordoned off to accommodate them. Linwood Roberts is Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator for UB. He said UB welcomes the circus. He said it is a wonderful way to grow UB's diversity.

"There's going to be quite a few people that are going to be on campus who it may be their first time being here and that's a great thing for us," said Roberts. "And that's another reason why we open the campus up, not just for diverse individuals, but for young kids as well, to say, 'hey, we're on a university campus here, it's pretty cool'" said Roberts.

He said working with the Circus management has been great. He said permitting all was worked in just three days. And Roberts said when they pack up it will be no muss - and no mess.

"Everything goes with it, not being too specific...from the animal issues if you will to the porta-potties," said Roberts.

Ingram said audiences will be glad they were here too. Ingram said they always leave folks smiling.

"I don't care how long I've been doing this, to see the look on a kid's face or a senior citizen's face in amazement...It's why I want to do this," said Ingram.

The UniverSoul Circus has presented more than 8,000 performances in the US and South Africa. It is considered one of the most critically acclaimed circuses in the nation.

Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com

SHOWTIMES:

Thursday and Friday, July 7-8 @ 10:30 A.M. and 7:30 P.M. Saturday, July 9 @ 12 noon, 4:00 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. Sunday, July 10 @ 3:30 P.M. and 6:30 P.M.