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Arts and Entertainment

Hey, Alaskans, the circus is in town

Found in the parking lot of the Northway Mall in East Anchorage on Sunday: A traveling circus, including a fire-breathing 19-year-old and a teenage clown known as "Ravioly."

The Great Benjamins Circus is a small, family-owned traveling circus show with a crew of about 14 people. Most are members of a third-generation family of circus performers.

In Alaska, they've already pitched their big blue tent in the communities of Tok, Fairbanks, Tanana, Delta Junction and Willow this summer.

On Sunday, the circus set up in the parking lot of the Northway Mall for a two-day stint in Alaska's biggest city.

Gerson Siqueiros, 16, performed as “Ravioly the Clown” during The Great Benjamins Circus at the Northway Mall on Sunday, June 17, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Based in Texas, the show travels 11 months of the year all over the United States and Canada, said John Davenport, who rides motorcycles in a steel cage known as the "Globe of Death" as part of the show.

John Davenport rode a motorcycle in the Globe of Death during The Great Benjamins Circus at the Northway Mall on Sunday, June 17, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Davenport and other members of the crew grew up in circus families and spent their childhoods on the road, he said.

"I been doing this my entire life," said the 22-year-old "Born and raised doing this."

Jose Cuevas, 19, dazzled the crowd with a fire eating and breathing performance during The Great Benjamins Circus at the Northway Mall on Sunday, June 17, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

With a crew this small everybody does several jobs, said Jose Cuevas, a 19-year-old fire breather.

"I do fire eating. Globe of death. Russian swing," he said. "I  tear down, set up, drive."

Cuevas said he had retired but a cousin called and asked him to help.

Some of the performers, like aerialist Amanda Valencia, have an even longer circus pedigree.

Amanda Valencia, a 7th generation circus performer, hangs high above the asphalt during a aerial silks performance during The Great Benjamins Circus at the Northway Mall on Sunday, June 17, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Valencia, 34, says she's a seventh generation circus performer. Her parents were trapeze artists and she grew up traveling with a circus.

She's now married to the brother of the owner of The Great Benjamins Circus. Her young son travels with the show. Much of her act, which she describes as a "more modern Cirque du Soleil sort of thing" is self-taught.

The pace of life in a small traveling circus can be intense: "Yesterday, I performed 12 times," she said.

The Great Benjamins Circus performs two more shows in Anchorage, with shows scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday before the show travels on to Soldotna Tuesday.

The circus will perform dates in Homer, Seward, Wasilla, Palmer and Valdez before heading on to Whitehorse, Yukon.

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