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The circus is NOT in town

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Last year’s controversy in Palos Hills no bearing on absence in 2014

The Carson & Barnes Circus won’t roll into Page-1-2-col-circusThe circus that has made a stop in Palos Hills for three straight years is not back in town this year but it wasn’t because of last year’s controversy. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Palos Hills this year, but a controversy involving last year’s show had no bearing on that decision.

City and circus officials said that a dispute that arose last year over a special segment designed to benefit the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault has not adversely affected the city’s relationship with the circus.
Rather, the circus is touring Ohio this month and had not planned to make a stop in Palos Hills or other southwest suburbs.
“I don’t think they’re anywhere in this area,” said MaryJo Vincent, Palos Hills’ resource and recreation department commissioner.
The traveling circus typically contacts the city in December if it plans to make a stop the following summer, Vincent said.
“They did not contact us this year,” said Vincent, who added that the circus would have been welcome for a 2014 show.
Vincent said city officials were caught off guard last year by Carson & Barnes’ plans to conduct a segment designed to call attention to sexual assault victims.
She said the city would carefully review future contracts with the circus to avoid similar surprises.
“We’ve had success with the partnership,” said Arlinda Copeland, manager of quality assurance for Carson & Barnes.
Copeland added that new protocol calls for the circus to get approval from the sponsor regarding any advocacy group that it promotes.
Last year the circus planned on a special segment with a candlelight vigil and information about sexual assault victims and other victims under the title “Survivors Under the Stars’’ to benefit the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Jacque Hollinder, who said she is a victim of sexual assault and filed a lawsuit that she was attacked by singer James Brown, organized the segment, which was part of various stops along the circus’s tour in 2013.
T-shirts were to be sold to benefit the victims.
“It blew up bigger than it should have,” Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said. “We didn’t find out until after you guys did a story in your paper.”
But the circus was a success, Bennett recalled, and is welcome in Palos Hills in the future, he said.
The 78-year-old circus visited Palos Hills in 2007, 2009 and 2011 through 2013.
Last year, the circus performed four shows over two days.
City officials were not aware that the segment was a part of the entertainment until reading stories and seeing ads in the Reporter and Regional News and wanted that taken out, deeming it inappropriate for a family circus. 

After the city negotiated with the circus, the vigil and victims portion of the show was taken out, but Hollinder’s song “I Am the Circus” was allowed to be sung by trapeze artist Franchesca Cavallini.
Children and parents were allowed to parade in the ring and outside the ring while the song was performed but there was no mention of ICASA or victims.
“It’s sad we weren’t able to do the full presentation,” Hollinder said last year. “But I’ll do what I’m told.’’

“Sexual assault, domestic violence, kidnapping and murder [has] now reached an epidemic level and we here at Carson and Barnes Circus want to be [a part] of shedding light on this matter,” circus officials wrote in a news release last year.

That was one problem solved, but the city also received letters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urging city officials to either cancel the circus or to not allow it to return in 2014, citing cruelty to the elephants in previous stops.
Bennett said at the time that he had no recollection of the circus abusing its animals and in the years the circus has come to Palos Hills there have been no reports of animal abuse.
Despite the incident-free shows performed by Carson & Barnes, reports surfaced that city officials favored pulling the plug on Carson & Barnes in 2014.