Lions and tigers and clowns — Oh, my! - East Valley Tribune: Events

Lions and tigers and clowns — Oh, my!

Circus arrives with big cats, barrels of fun

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Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 2:23 pm

I recently had the chance to chat with lion trainer Alexander Lacey, from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that’s performing at US Airways Center through Monday.

Lacey has been around cats for as long as he can remember. His parents owned two zoos and began training the cats for fun while he was growing up.

In this year’s show, there are 11 cats, including — for the first time in more than 16 years — a leopard.

The cats have all been raised from birth by Lacey. In fact, he’s owned 11 generations of the lions and nine generations of tigers.

He takes great pride in knowing each cat’s personality. He knows which cats he can cuddle with and which ones don’t like him to get close. Since he knows them so well, he has learned that if a cat is having an off day, he doesn’t let it perform or practice.

I asked Lacey what other acts we should be excited for, and he mentioned a baby elephant that is making her debut this year, eight motorcycle riders in a steel cage, and, his favorite, the Cossack (horseback) Riders.

He also talked about how cool the China National Acrobatic Troupe is and that circus goers need to arrive an hour before showtime for pre-show festivities. That’s when families can go down on the arena floor to meet the performers, learn circus skills and more.

One thing is clear from speaking with Lacey, he is passionate about what he is doing, and he loves his cats.


What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey present Legends, an all-new circus show.

When: Showtimes vary through Monday, June 30.

Where: US Airways Center, 201 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix

Cost: $19-$109

Information: (602) 379-7800 or

• Wendy O’Neal writes about life in the East Valley at She also shares easy, family-friendly recipes at

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