Tiffany Ditto, The Gazette
This wasn't a regular performance. Even though he has been ringmaster for the last nine years, retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Terrance McWilliams was eager to take the stage Saturday.
More than 4,000 military personnel and their families filled the seats at The Broadmoor World Arena Saturday, awaiting the start of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. While the performances would be the same, this show was different: It was free to 4,500 active duty military members and their families.
"We're showing our appreciation, the community's appreciation, of what military families do every year," McWilliams said. "We always say thank you to the service members, but we never really thank the families that stand behind them."
The tickets were distributed to local military installations by the El Pomar Foundation, where McWilliams is vice president for military and veteran affairs. Along with the free admission the El Pomar Foundation took care of parking expenses at the venue, and provided food vouchers worth $5.50 to accompany each ticket.
McWilliams said children in military families worry about their parent's safety and need an opportunity to forget about that for a day.
"These youngsters are going through a lot and this is an opportunity for them to forget about that," McWilliams said. "This is a way to give back."
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has presented circus shows for 145 years. On May 1 it retired its elephant act, but came to town with a trove of animals, including tigers and camels.
Colorado Springs newcomers Abby and Tyler Frander, both Air Force lieutenant colonels, and their two children were eager to see the show. After moving to Colorado Springs a week ago, they were happy to have some fun with their children.
"[Tyler's] sponsor got us these tickets to welcome us to Colorado Springs," Abby Frander said. "It's really cool for our two daughters and has made the move a little more exciting for them. It's our first circus so we're not sure what to expect."
Before the doors opened families were welcomed to the petting zoo where they could interact with the animals.
Once inside the arena families were invited to meet the cast members on the circus floor, jump in an inflatable bounce house, and watch the trapeze artists swing from the rings above.
As the show began, the audience members clapped in excitement as McWilliams was named honorary ringmaster for the event.
Nick Lambert, also known as Nick the clown, was happy to perform for the servicemen and women.
"They do so much for us, it's nice to give something back to them the way we can," Lambert said.
Click here to read the original article