While the Elbert County Library District has plenty of books on lions and tigers, director Kari May admits she never thought the large cats would ever make a live appearance in her library parking lot.
But, never say never.
The Culpepper and Merriweather Circus stopped in Elizabeth for two afternoon performances July 21 at the Elizabeth Public Library, to the delight of both young and old — and to raise money for the Elbert County Libraries Foundation.
The small, tented one-ring circus featured a variety of traditional acts, delighting both young and old, and raising money for the foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing library facilities, programs and services.
“It worked out nicely,” said May. “We were able to provide the circus with a place to perform and a small portion of the ticket price will come back to the libraries.”
Based in Hugo, Okla., the circus performs approximately 31 weeks out of the year, according to general manager and resident lion tamer Trey Key.
Key, who’s been with circus for seven years, feeds, grooms and trains the three large felines that headline the show as well as handling many of the logistics.
While small family-owned circuses seem to struggle in larger metropolitan areas, Culpepper and Merriweather emphasizes the fact that less densely populated areas enable them to deliver a more intimate show, with no seat being more than 40 feet from the performance ring.
Key added that over the years, additional fees and permit requirements can make things difficult. He said he, as well as many of the circus family members, love what they do.
“I don’t think there’s anyone here that would be happy working in an office five days a week,” he said. “This is really the best job you can have. I’m surrounded with friends and pets all day.”