Dean Kelley was 4 years old the first time he went to the circus and he’s had a love affair with the big top ever since.
“I saw the clowns and I was just enamored,” said the now 31-year-old Kelley during a recent telephone interview. After that, he went to the circus every year when it came through his hometown of Kansas City, Kansas. His parents thought he’d grow out of it.
Kelley has been touring with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey for six years as a clown. This weekend he’ll serve as the pre-show host for the Barnum Bash, the newest show from the storied traveling circus.
Audiences can expect typical circus fare, including elephants, juggling and acrobatics, but there are also a few newer elements to the show, such as Motorcycle Mania, the Wheel of Steel and the Globe of Steel.
There’s also the Mighty Demetri, who will challenge an audience member to a feat of strength.
“There’s something for everybody,” said Kelley, who added that his favorite part of his job is watching the audience react to the show, especially when the parents’ response is as excited as the kids’.
But the thrill and excitement isn’t lost on Kelley just because he’s around it every day.
“Every day I get to pet an elephant,” he said. “And every day there’s one thing that reminds me why I do what I do.”
Whether that’s a kid running up to give him a hug or a 95-year-old experiencing a circus for the first time, Kelly recognizes how fortunate he is to get to travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
“They don’t call us the Greatest Show on Earth for nothing,” he said.