BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Airbrush tattoo artist and stagehand Judith Reitan dons her costume outside the tent.
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, step right up to witness Dr. Von Houligan’s Carnival of Calamities.
The travelling carnival has rolled into Brandon and will feature fire performers, contortionists, jugglers and magicians over the next three days.
"The family-friendly shows are fun for everyone, the humour stretches across any age level," said performer Cole Shaheen. "Adult shows… definitely leave your kids at home."
Ringmaster Allister Denton said the goal is to bring live, quality, affordable entertainment to small towns. It is also a way to give up-and-coming performers exposure and hopefully advance their careers.
The tour began in Olds, Alta., on March 31, and since then has stopped in seven communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and now Manitoba.
Denton described the tour experience thus far as "cold, wet, rainy, hot, frustrating … but all around it has been one hell of a great experience. We’ve had our positives, we’ve had our negatives, but all in all it’s just made for one great adventure."
The carnival has a core group of four performers, but it picks up guest performers along the way who join for a month or two before moving on.
"We’re looking for local performers who want to come out and show their talent," he said. "We like having guest performers. It gives them a chance to get on a stage, branch out, learn what it’s like to live in the carnival and stuff like that."
The crew arrived in Brandon on Monday and set up their massive 52-by-76-foot tent on the grounds near the Royal Canadian Legion at 560 13th St. East. They hope to attract hundreds to their shows, which run today, Friday and Saturday. Interested local performers are encouraged to stop by the tent.
The family-friendly show starts at 6:30 p.m., followed by the 16-and-up show at 9:30 p.m.
At the later show, the audience will see stunts like walking on glass, contortionists, cinder block breaking and block head — where nails and other objects are inserted into the nose of a performer.
"It’s a little bit more dangerous, a little bit more vulgar," Shaheen said.
Shaheen has been with the carnival for the past four weeks. He performs contact juggling with clear crystal balls and also performs poi, which is swinging tethered weights through different patterns, lit up with lights or on fire.
"It’s been tough but it’s been amazing," Shaheen said of the tour. "I’ve always wanted to do something like this, break off from the regular job … It’s nice because I get to travel, which I haven’t been able to do before. I get to go see the ocean at the end of the season."
The Carnival of Calamities will head to Virden next week, followed by Killarney and Selkirk later in June. Tickets are $20. For seniors and children 12 and under, tickets are $10.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 29, 2014