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Circus comes to town

March 12, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

SHARPSBURG - With flames licking at his arms, and his feet and hips in constant motion, a Walker Bros. Circus performer balanced on platforms, appearing to surf on the rounded surface of a barrel-shaped object high above the floor.

Crammed into a standing-room space in a building at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center, the audience shuddered, cheered and applauded.

Hundreds of people, most with small children in tow, turned out for Sunday's two performances. A big-shoe-clad clown, a prancing stallion and a flame-tossing daredevil provided some of the entertainment.

Michael Ringquist, 9, responded without hesitation when asked at intermission which performer he liked best.

"The juggling act," Michael said.

As his mother, sisters and cousin got their pictures taken with the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants, Michael expressed admiration for the circus' juggling phenom.

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"I liked it because he was juggling the fire, and I could never do that," the Smithsburg boy said.

At 10 years old, the circus' juggler barely is older than Michael, but he charmed the crowd with an exuberant performance that featured a toss-and-catch of fiery wands.

Meg Passarell of Hagerstown, who went to the circus with her family, said she enjoys seeing the performers' talents on display.

"I just like seeing all the stuff they do," the 34-year-old said.

Like Michael, Passarell said she is no match for the circus' young juggler.

"No, I couldn't juggle to save my life," she said.

Passarell's husband, Eric Passarell, sat with their pigtailed daughter, 17-month-old Zoe, on his lap.

Passarell said he is not bothered by the altitudes at which some circus performers make their livings. The precariously balanced performer on the barrel was above audience members' heads as he twirled his batons of fire.

For Eric Passarell, 36, the heights would not be the problem.

"The falling never hurts you. The sudden stop at the end of the ride will," Passarell said.

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