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2013-04-18

Balloon artist smooths way for Big Top

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

As a fundraiser for the Optimist Club of Bandera, the "biggest Big Top of 'em all," the Carson & Barnes Circus, will roll into town on Saturday, April 20. Charles Watson, advance coordinator for the circus, stopped by Thursday, April 4, to smooth the way.

After meeting with Optimist President Sully Woodland, Watson said, "I'm really impressed with how smoothly everything has gone today. You're really well organized."

Channeling Bandera's history of frequent celebrations, Woodland quipped, "Well, you know, this ain't our first rodeo. It might be our first circus, but it sure ain't our first rodeo!" A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the John G. Slocomb Bandera Optimist Club Scholarship Fund.

A native of West Virginia, Watson segued into his current career after performing with the Wenatchee Youth Circus in the State of Washington, which is celebrating its 61st season. Watson spent four years with the circus honing his juggling and clowning skills and performing occasional feats of magic.

However, it was Watson's balloon artistry that fascinated patrons of the Bandera County Public Library Thursday afternoon. He spent more than an hour creating balloon art for everyone from not-so-completely-jaded-anymore teenagers and awed toddlers to appreciative library staff. It's clear he loves his work, which, at this point, consists of talking to people - and the press - and assisting sponsors. "This is just the circus' way of letting the sponsors know we're here to help you in any way," Watson said.

"After working with the Wenatchee Youth Circus, I contacted the Carson & Barnes Circus for a position and they offered me the advance coordinator job," he explained. Now Watson's life is spent on the road traveling several weeks in advance of the Big Top. As an example, on Wednesday, April 10, he was in Kingsland and after his gig at the Bandera library, he was off to Crystal City - without taking a breath.

He's on the road nine months of the year and when the circus winters in Hugo, Oklahoma, in December, January and February, he and his traveling companion, Elsie, a personable dachshund-Jack Russell mix, head home to Parkersburg, West Virginia, and Watson's wife, Niki.

"If you're going to be in the circus, you have to love every minute of it," Watson said.

And, Woodland is convinced, everyone in the county is going to do just that - fall in love with the Carson & Barnes Circus. The performances feature animal acts, including elephants, camels, horses and dogs; death-defying aerialists and tightrope walkers; and clowns and jugglers, as well as other specialty acts and a free petting zoo.

According to Woodland, the Big Top will be pitched at Mansfield Park on April 20. And, he's inviting the entire community to turn out at 9 am that morning to watch the stakes being driven and the canvas hoisted - or whatever the roustabouts do in this day and age. Circus performances will be at 2 pm and 5 pm.

Advance tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children ages two through 11 years. Tickets at the gate on the day of the performances will be $16 for adults and $10 for children.

Tickets for the Carson & Barnes Circus are available at Bandera Bank, Bandera First State Bank and Hondo National Bank, as well as at the Bandera County Chamber of Commerce.

As they say, "See you at the circus" - and we're looking forward to seeing Charles Watson again when he and the circus comes around next year!

Pictured: Even the press was presented with a special balloon - a multicolored rainbow complete with clouds and heart in lieu of a pot o' gold.


Whipping up enthusiasm for the coming Carson & Barnes Circus, advance man Charles Watson, also whipped up balloon in the form of a monkey on a banana tree, witty hats and a dinosaur. Participants included Evalyn Thaler, Brandon Merritt and Keano Jannell.


Charles Watson, right, pressed Eddie Rowe of the Western Trail Antiques Mall into service putting up a poster letting everyone know the Carson & Barnes Circus will be in Bandera Saturday, April 20.


Charles Watson, left, advance coordinator for the Carson & Barnes Circus, recently gave Dalton Merritt a lesson in balloon artistry at the Bandera County Public Library. The circus will come to town, Saturday, April 20, with performances at 2 pm and 5 pm.