Under the Big Top

| July 10, 2001

Wells likes driving because it gives him plenty of time to think, but his primary concern is for the animals. “Driving is a necessary evil, but I like it,” he says. “My priority is to take care of the animals and deliver them safely.”

Katie Naughton, who drives for the Yankee Doodle Circus out of Greenville, N.Y., says that a driver gains a lot of attention when hauling circus animals. When people ask what’s inside the circus trailers, her father has a unique message.

“He tells them it’s the next winner of the Kentucky Derby,” she says. “Then he shows them the miniature horses, and they laugh.”

Naughton has driven six years for her family’s circus, and she is also the manager of the company and road manager of the show. She hauls eight miniature horses and has to stop every four hours to water and feed them.

The show has three red Kenworths and seven RVs for the performers. The show covers 125 cities in the Northeast, metropolitan New York and Boston.

“I love it,” Naughton says. “I’m on the road and see different people every day. Most of the people are nice. Once a week, I see the show. Drivers have other jobs to do when they aren’t driving. There aren’t many jobs with the circus that don’t require dealing with people. If you don’t mind being around people, it’s a great job to have.”

Justin Loomis has been the ringmaster for the Kelly Miller Circus for two years. He says the process is well organized and the truckers are professional. “At the end of the last show, two elephants, Viola and Libby, pull the stakes up from the ground. It’s good exercise for them,” Loomis says. “Then, the truckers and crew load the tents and equipment so that we’re ready to pull off the lot the next morning. We couldn’t do this without their help.”

Hector Perez is the canvas boss. He drives the pole truck that holds the bleachers, poles and tents and is one of the first semis on the lot. He is responsible for setting up the tent and helping park vehicles. Perez says his job is predictable, except when it rains.

“The worst part of this job is dealing with the elements like wind and rain,” Perez says. “Today is a different day and will be a long day. Regular days are easy.”

Routing and directing the trucks
The drivers get a route slip each morning before leaving the lot of the previous show. Beckett arrives in the town 24 hours before the show trucks arrive. He decides on the best route into town and starts placing arrows along the route to lead the drivers in.
“I put down 20,000 to 25,000 arrows a year,” Beckett says.

When choosing the route, Beckett looks for trees that might obstruct the driver’s view and for low hanging power lines. He also looks for wide roads so that traffic can pass without the trucks having to pull over on the side of the road.

“Not only is it dangerous for the equipment, it’s dangerous for the gawkers,” Beckett says. “In New York, I have to measure the bridge heights because they are usually lower than what it reads on the bridge.”

Under the Big Top

| July 10, 2001

Wells likes driving because it gives him plenty of time to think, but his primary concern is for the animals. “Driving is a necessary evil, but I like it,” he says. “My priority is to take care of the animals and deliver them safely.”

Katie Naughton, who drives for the Yankee Doodle Circus out of Greenville, N.Y., says that a driver gains a lot of attention when hauling circus animals. When people ask what’s inside the circus trailers, her father has a unique message.

“He tells them it’s the next winner of the Kentucky Derby,” she says. “Then he shows them the miniature horses, and they laugh.”

Naughton has driven six years for her family’s circus, and she is also the manager of the company and road manager of the show. She hauls eight miniature horses and has to stop every four hours to water and feed them.

The show has three red Kenworths and seven RVs for the performers. The show covers 125 cities in the Northeast, metropolitan New York and Boston.

“I love it,” Naughton says. “I’m on the road and see different people every day. Most of the people are nice. Once a week, I see the show. Drivers have other jobs to do when they aren’t driving. There aren’t many jobs with the circus that don’t require dealing with people. If you don’t mind being around people, it’s a great job to have.”

Justin Loomis has been the ringmaster for the Kelly Miller Circus for two years. He says the process is well organized and the truckers are professional. “At the end of the last show, two elephants, Viola and Libby, pull the stakes up from the ground. It’s good exercise for them,” Loomis says. “Then, the truckers and crew load the tents and equipment so that we’re ready to pull off the lot the next morning. We couldn’t do this without their help.”

Hector Perez is the canvas boss. He drives the pole truck that holds the bleachers, poles and tents and is one of the first semis on the lot. He is responsible for setting up the tent and helping park vehicles. Perez says his job is predictable, except when it rains.

“The worst part of this job is dealing with the elements like wind and rain,” Perez says. “Today is a different day and will be a long day. Regular days are easy.”

Routing and directing the trucks
The drivers get a route slip each morning before leaving the lot of the previous show. Beckett arrives in the town 24 hours before the show trucks arrive. He decides on the best route into town and starts placing arrows along the route to lead the drivers in.
“I put down 20,000 to 25,000 arrows a year,” Beckett says.

When choosing the route, Beckett looks for trees that might obstruct the driver’s view and for low hanging power lines. He also looks for wide roads so that traffic can pass without the trucks having to pull over on the side of the road.

“Not only is it dangerous for the equipment, it’s dangerous for the gawkers,” Beckett says. “In New York, I have to measure the bridge heights because they are usually lower than what it reads on the bridge.”

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