The Circus is Coming to Ottumwa!

Monday’s circus performance at Bridge View Center has the local marketer excited. Jillian Kaplan of Spotlight Event Marketing says the show offers “a whole lot of fun” and includes a disappearing circus staple: elephants.

“This is a brand-new production,” said Kaplan. Carden International Circus puts together a new program every year, and this year it reveals its new show in Ottumwa.

While some circuses are discontinuing use of elephants in their acts, Carden International continues to use the animals. “They have to follow USDA rules, yes,” Kaplin said. “They have to follow the guidelines.”

The United States Department of Agriculture administers the Animal Welfare Act which establishes requirements for transportation, sale and handling of certain animals including those used in circus performances.

“When you have elephants in a show, you have to have somebody with them 24-7 because it’s like having an infant with you,” Kaplan said. “You have to have someone watching them, taking care of their needs.”

In the case of Carden International, that job falls to Brett Carden, the son of the circus’s founder George Carden. “Brett Carden, the producer of the show, grew up with these elephants,” said Kaplan.

The circus offers other animal acts as well. The audience will see tigers, ponies, dogs and camels, Kaplan said.

“And this is the first three-ring circus to come to Ottumwa,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan helped bring the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus to Ottumwa several years ago, she said, but that was a one-ring circus.

Carden International brings a trio of Russian women who perform an aerial act with balletic grace 30 feet in the air. Duo Leyva Meraz performs a bow-and-arrow act in the vein of William Tell.

One of the clowns in the show, Rolly, who works with Little Bo, “has a tiny little miniature elephant,” Kaplan said. “It’s very, very cute.

“We also have a tumbling act that’s very high energy. It’s Olympic caliber.”

The circus has sky walkers and a thin wire act that is not so far off the ground.

“And that’s just the first half,” said Kaplan.

“It is actually the first time we’ve ever had a three-ring circus,” said Laurie Appleget, sales manager at Bridge View Center. The size of the production is no problem for the venue, however.

“We have 30,000 square feet in the expo hall,” said Appleget. “With seating we have plenty of space for three rings.”

Even the pachyderms won’t be a problem. “We have huge overhead doors,” Appleget said. Unlike the circus Bridge View hosts in the spring, Carden International won’t have its animals outside. The circus will bring its animals in heated trailers.

“Because the show is only here for one day, I’m really hoping that Ottumwa will embrace it and get out in the cold,” Kaplan said.

The circus begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Children can meet the circus stars and ride the animals an hour before show time.

Tickets are available through Bridge View Center, and To receive a free children’s ticket with the purchase of a full-priced adult ticket, click the free pass tab at


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