WANT TO GO?
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents Dragons
WHERE: Charleston Civic Center
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today and Friday; 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: $15 to $85
INFO: 800-745-3000 or www.charlestonciviccenter.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It still happens. People really do still run off to join the circus.
Andrew Hicks, a 21-year-old from Goldsboro, N.C., put college plans on hold and ran off to become a clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey right out of high school.
Hicks, who performs with the circus this week at the Charleston Civic Center, said he grew up dreaming of joining Ringling Bros., and before he was in middle school, he'd taken up clowning. He started off performing at his father's Chik-fil-A in Goldsboro, and then clowned at parties and events around town.
He also met a couple of former Ringling Bros. clowns, who became mentors and helped him arrange an introduction to the Greatest Show on Earth while he was still in high school.
"I reached out to Ringling Bros.," he said. "I told them, 'Hey, you're coming to my hometown. Is there any kind of way I could meet with someone or anything, just to let you know I'm interested?'"
The circus did one better. They set up an audition.
"They brought me in during the pre-show," Hicks said. "That's the part of the show where the audience can come out and meet the performers."
He described it as "the most nerve-wracking experience of his life" and not just because Ringling Bros. was there. There was a crowd, and the circus had invited local media.
"They'd made a publicity event out of it." Hicks said. "They brought me out there, gave me a stage and said, 'You have four minutes: Go!' "
When it was all over, Ringling Bros. invited him to a more formal audition at Coney Island after he graduated.