Authentic big top circus returns to Wellman

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, if your summer won’t be complete without peanuts and cotton candy, big cats and high-wire acts, the City of Wellman has your back. 

On Sunday, August 21, the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus will return to Wellman’s North Park Ballfield with a full day of events.  Watch the big top rise at 9:30 a.m. when the circus staff pulls the giant canopy up by hand with rope and stakes.  Ride a pony, defy gravity in the Moon Bounce, scream down the giant slide, enhance your appearance with a face painting, or seek a sugar high at the concession stand when the Midway opens at 1 p.m.   Corral friends and family of all ages under the big top at 2 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. for a circus performance you won’t soon forget. 

In 2019, the Wellman Rotary Club and Wellman Chamber brought the circus to Wellman for the first time.  It was so successful, the City of Wellman decided to bring the circus back this year.

“That year we basically sold out of tickets for both shows.  They called us and asked us if we would have it again,” Kelly Litwiller, Wellman City Administrator, said. 

The circus effectively raises money for the sponsor, in this case the City of Wellman.  The city pays the circus a fee of $290 to have them come, and if 100 adult tickets are sold, the fee is refunded to the sponsor.  The sponsor also receives a percentage of all ticket sales, although that percentage is higher for advance ticket sales.  In 2019, almost all 500 available tickets were sold.

According to Litwiller, Brenda Reasor, manager of the city-owned Wellman Skating Rink, encouraged the city to bring the circus back to town to raise funds for updates to the skating rink.  Since being hired last fall, Reasor has made many improvements to the rink, such as extended hours and hot food service, which have resulted in a great increase in revenue.  Less than 20 roller skating venues continue to operate in the state of Iowa; as a result, Wellman draws skaters from all over the Southeastern part of the state.

The circus is also expected to draw people from the surrounding area, including North English, Washington, Riverside, and Kalona.  Because the event takes place the Sunday before school starts, it gives families one last summer experience to enjoy before getting into school mode.

The Oklahoma-based Culpepper & Merriweather Circus, which began in 1985 with just three men, is a true, traditional circus, complete with trapeze, contortionists, wire walkers, clowns, horses, and big cats.  Lest you think you’ve seen it all before, the circus boasts a brand-new show for 2022 with four new acts.

However, for an older generation, nostalgia is part of the draw. 

“The kids were really excited, but there were adults that were reliving their childhoods with the old circuses,” Litwiller said of the previous circus.  “It brought back so many childhood memories.”

Young and old alike will be entertained by the clown who will visit Wellman on August 11 in advance of the circus.  The clown’s stops on that day will be the Wellman Library at 1 p.m.; Sunrise Daycare at 1:40 p.m.; and Parkview Manor at 2:20 p.m.  The clown will put on a humorous 20-minute show in which she will talk about the circus and twist balloon animals. 

Lower-priced advance tickets -- $12 adults, $7 children 2-12 and seniors over 65 -- are already selling at Freeman Foods, Wellman City Hall, Hills Bank (Wellman branch), and Federation Bank (Wellman Branch).  Tickets at the box office will be sold on the circus grounds starting one hour before the show for $15 adults, $8 children and seniors.

“I hope people will support [the circus] and come out and enjoy a family night with their kids,” Litwiller said.

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