PAWS Magazine


Issue 47, Fall 2000


Send in the Clowns

It wasn’t exactly a welcome mat.

When the animal trainers, staff, and performers from Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus looked up into the crowd during their performances at Seattle’s Key Arena in September, they saw a wall of children playing with spinning disk toys. The message on the toys? Wild animals should be kept wild!

PAWS advocates and volunteers, led by PAWS advocate Diane Venberg, and dressed as clowns and animals, were at each Ringling performance handing out the soon-to-be ubiquitous toys to children and informational brochures to their parents. The toys and brochures were just one part of a PAWS effort to remind Seattle families that wild animals belong in the wild.

The toys were the brainchild of Berrie Lynn Kritch, Liorah Terpstra, and the other creative geniuses at local marketing agency Creative Works. They also designed a poster for parents reminding them of the poor educational message that circuses give their children. Creative Works donated all of their services, and many of the staff volunteered as clowns during the Ringling performances.

Ringling spokespeople continued to claim that Seattleites want circuses featuring animal acts. But the numbers belie this claim. Cirque Du Soliel "Saltimbanco" set up a massive tent in Renton in July. Ten weeks later Cirque Du Soliel moved on to another city, having entertained more than 200,000 patrons, who paid ticket prices ranging from $40 to $100. Ringling Bros. pulled into Key Arena in September, playing to half and third full houses for four days, with patrons paying heavily discounted ticket prices equalling about one fourth the prices of Cirque du Soliel (factoring in the numerous free and discounted tickets distributed through Bartell’s Drugs and other local businesses). Exact crowd numbers are unavailable at press time, but conservatively it can be assumed that Ringling had about one quarter the audience of Cirque du Soliel, and patrons spent about one sixteenth as much to attend Ringling. Clearly if Seattle citizens were voting with their pocket books, they were voting for animal-free circuses.

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