The second we saw the big canvas striped sheets being hoisted into the sky, we knew it was a non-negotiable. We were going to that circus.
Or the other circus.
Or the 3rd circus.
In fact there are, right now, no fewer than 5 circus tents running simultaneously in the Villarrica-Pucón area!
Apparently it’s a thing here.
And they all look pretty much identical. The dusty, rutted parking lots, the well-worn painted signage, the impressive peaks of the tent luring you in, and the lights blinking at dusk, hoping to attract at least a few dozen travelers through the doors.
To be honest, it was all so classic and old school, I half expected to see roustabouts in short trousers and pageboy caps hoisting the rigging. Or maybe to hear carnival barkers luring folks into tents with promises of bearded women, 700 pound men, and “exciting wonders from the Orient.”
While those roustabouts were, sadly, more modern in t-shirts and jeans — there were elements that harkened back to a time of non-existent safety codes. For example, the bleachers. 12 rows of rough cut, sagging planks tied together with fraying ropes, these structures tested the laws of physics for balance and weight-bearing capacity. …And didn’t give one much hope!
So, of course, Andrew lunged for them first thing — ready to scale Mount Everest. And while Mama was game to make one quick trip to the top, we quickly returned to stable ground, parking in Row 2. Even way down there, one immediately felt compelled to scan the scene for emergency evacuation routes.
There were, perhaps, only 30 other people in the tent with us that evening. A 7:45 Monday night showing doesn’t have many takers. This low turn out, however, meant that we were given a little more “special attention.” 10 minutes into the show and Rich was already being forced to drink some unidentifiable, sweet yellow liquid from the wooden cask a clown offered him.
One’s ability to say “no” quickly diminishes under the glow of a follow-spot… even if “no” is the same in both languages.
And the toys. Oh the TOYS! I would safely say, even with my limited Spanish, that at least 30% of the show was geared towards luring parents into buying their children the cheap plastic toys, candied apples, papas fritas, and assorted light up goods.
I mean, who gives into that crap???? You gotta be pretty weak to gi–
Oh… wait… ummmm… I mean….
Let’s move right along, shall we?
Now, if I’m going to be perfectly honest — And this will come as a shock, I’m sure… The talent in this outfit left much to be desired.
Now that doesn’t mean we didn’t love it. We TOTALLY did. It was just… a little green. 😉
Here’s a breakdown of the basic program:
Youth Clowns. Apparently a training ground for the next generation of clowning… this show had two heavily featured young clowns that did novice routines (mostly dancing around and lip-syncing while wearing wigs). They weren’t awesome — but I loved the boldness of those kids. There were also two adult clowns that were pretty funny (when I could understand them). And one was a wicked trumpet player too.
The Spanish language lip syncing Frozen routine. Clearly breaking all copyright infringement laws possible, this Anna, Elsa, and Olaf combo pack really brought an interesting (albeit entirely out of place) touch to the evening. BUT… it did snow on stage – which was the most technical special effect of the night.
And who can forget when a very boxy Lightening McQueen backed onto stage and talked to us? Lucas is still talking about this. Oh to be five!
Half-skilled, yet FULL-hearted unicyclists, jugglers, and aerialists. Oh man did these folks give it the good old college try! And they almost had the right pizazz and showmanship to yank them through their amateur level skills
… the unicyclist who was clearly sweating bullets around those cones, making us wonder if it was her first night on the job.
… the juggler who did great with 3 and 4 hoops… but may have gotten overzealous with 8.
… the aerialist who got tangled in her fabric at least twice.
… and the hula hoop artist who, well actually… she was pretty darn good!
Amazing feats of daring by motorcyclists in the steel ball cage. Ahhh, a circus classic, I was surprised to see this actually featured. I was, however, less surprised when one of the motorcycles wouldn’t start once in the ball and had to be removed. That being said, the broken bike DID make the short 2-man stint that much more of a nail-biter when he chose to REENTER with his faulty bike and do the trick anyway! 😮
But my favorite part of the entire evening… when Lucas and Andrew went on stage! Here’s how it went down in the Bartell family.
Mom: (enthusiastically) Lucas, all the kids are invited on stage! Do you wanna go up there?
Lucas: No. I don’t. (Becomes suddenly and deeply interested in his light up sword)
Mom: Okay, if you’re sure.
Andrew: (loud and emphatic) I WANT TO GO.
Mom: You do?
Andrew: Yes. I go. (Barrels towards the stage)
Mom: (in a rush) Lucas! Go with him so he doesn’t wander or start anything on fire!
Lucas: (sighs, the general theme of the next 12 years flashing before his eyes, resignedly) Fine.
The best part? Andrew got up there and, because he’s 2, bailed almost immediately. Lucas, on the other hand, is 5 and knows what’s what. He hadn’t been dismissed by the strange clown yet so there he stayed.
Does he speak the language? Nope!
Can he do the game? Nope!
Does he know how to answer the question, “Como te llamas?” YES!
Holy smokes, that little lad scored BIG bravery points that night simply by speaking his name into a microphone. Because anyone who’s ever been pulled on stage before, especially in a foreign country, knows there is NOTHING simple about that!
The show ended at 9:30 — which meant the boys were up way past bedtime. But it also meant that the 10:00 show was lining up for admittance, and the line was filled with a bunch children as young as my own — just getting revved up to start their evening of fun.
As we walked to our car, Rich turned to me and said, “Well, I feel like that was an absolutely necessary experience.” And I couldn’t agree more.
I’m so thankful we went.
…And even more thankful that I didn’t see any emaciated tigers, open flames, or attempted “saw the lady in two” magic tricks attempted. Because really, when your big-time act is an Elsa lip sync – it’s best not to push your luck too far!