Circus plans 3 shows today, minus big top

July 22, 2000|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The opening performance of a circus billing itself as the largest show under a tent was canceled yesterday by Anne Arundel fire inspectors for lack of proof that its tent set up early in the morning at the county fairgrounds met safety standards.

County officials worked with management of the five-ring Carson & Barnes Circus to stage the show outdoors instead, according to Battalion Chief John Scholz, a fire department spokesman.

While the circus operators decided to cancel a second performance last night, they planned to go on with the show and an altered schedule today under the biggest big top -- the sky -- at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Scholz said the fire department was alerted yesterday that the tent was being erected at the fairgrounds in Crownsville and found that the operators had not obtained a county permit for a tent being used for public assembly.

County Planning and Code Enforcement officials were willing to allow the tent show to take place, but the circus operators were unable to show evidence that the huge tent had passed required testing by Underwriters Laboratory for fire-retardant capability, Scholz said.

"Our concern is for the safety of the people paying money to go to the circus," he said.

A circus spokesman, Wes Rogers, said he could not recall another incident of the Oklahoma-based show being denied use of the tent -- which was set up by crew members and elephants before spectators shortly after sunrise.

Scholz said the county's concerns were unrelated to recent publicity attending publication of a book, "The Circus Fire: A True Story" by Stewart O'Nan, on the 1944 tent fire in Hartford, Conn., that killed 168 people.

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