Several months ago I took several of my grandkids to the circus for the first time.
I had stuffed their heads full with tales of my own derring-do while working as a clown, ringmaster and publicity director for many different circuses over a period of 25 years; I felt confident that they would enjoy the wonders and glories of the big top as much as I had.
I was wrong.
The show was rich in clown gags, motorcycle stunts, breath-taking high wire feats, and fantastic juggling – but at intermission the grandkids begged to be freed from the tedium so they could return home and play on their iPads.
So we all hopped back in the car, leaving behind one of the greatest marvels of childhood I can ever conceive of.
I have given much thought as to why my grandkids, even after being encouraged and tantalized by my (somewhat exaggerated) stories of the big top, turned their back on this historic form of entertainment.
I don’t believe my grandkids are prodigies of sloth or arrogance; they are the normal run-of-the-mill type of boys and girls. There was nothing to frighten them at the show, and the show itself was carried on at a good clip.
I did notice that the matinee we attended was also attended by the dreaded “Mr. and Mrs. Rose”, meaning there were plenty of empty seats. And I also noticed that quite a few of the families we came with also left at intermission along with us.
So what’s wrong?
How can the big top compete against iPads and DVDs?
I offer the following surmises only as helpful hints, not as any form of criticism:
Traditional forms of publicity, such as posters, advance clowns, and media ads, need to be supplemented with savvy social media marketing. When I went to this particular show’s website, it was apparent that the webmaster had not done any updating since the previous season. The information and the photographs were all from the 2012 season. In today’s social media-addicted world, a circus needs a strong and constantly updated presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a readable and engaging blog that is refreshed at least several times a week. Before parents spend their money on family entertainment, they want to be informed, they want to be sold. And social media is what they depend on. Not word of mouth or newspaper ads. Hiring a marketing/publicity director who knows how to use and maintain the above mentioned venues is not that hard, and will pay handsome dividends in free publicity and increased attendance.
Shows have got to remember to engage the audience early on in the performance and keep that engagement going until the very end of the performance. When I worked as ringmaster we always had a spectacular peanut pitch that kept the crowd glued to their seats during intermission. And the only prizes were several balloons handed personally to the winners by one of the clowns. Get the kids interested early in the show with any kind of gimmick you want, so long as they know they are required to stick around to the end of the show to collect.
I currently work part-time with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) government grant program that pays me a stipend to work with school kids, Cub Scouts, and other children’s organizations to give science demonstrations. Do show owners and managers understand the amazing kinds of knowledge a professional circus with its staff can make available to ‘children of all ages’? And that there is good grant money available to provide school tours and other kinds of kid’s tours of the circus? Just look at how the Big Apple Circus has parlayed the educational aspect of the circus into generous corporate sponsors and government grants. Any other show can do the same, if they are willing to use a professional grant writer. If you can sell your show as an educational experience, you can collect grant money and corporate sponsors. The key is to START NOW. The end of the financial year is coming up for many grants and corporations – they need to unload whatever funds they still might have left before the new financial year starts and they have to return their surplus funds.
(Tim Torkildson currently resides in Provo, Utah, where he works in social media. His twitter account is @torkythai911 )
The holidays are an excellent opportunity for families – to either go crazy from the stress of overblown expectations . . . or to find some precious peace and joy through serving others.
It may take a little initial effort, but parents can assuredly find venues in which they and their children can participate and learn together, before, during, and after the hectic holidays. You and your family can spend anywhere from one afternoon or evening to many hours over the weeks and months to extend a helping hand to others through the many legitimate service organizations that currently function in the United States and Canada.
Here are 0 organizations you can contact in your community to offer your family’s services, which will be highly appreciated:
Your place of worship. If you regularly attend a place of worship, contact your pastor, priest, rabbi, or other ecclesiastical leader and ask them for suggestions as to what your family can do to be of service in the church and in the community. All ecclesiastical leaders are plugged into the needs and concerns of their community, and will be overjoyed to suggest something that is tailor-made for you and your family.
If you are not a regular attendee at any particular place of worship, not to worry. There are many fine service branches to all major religions that would be overjoyed to have your family’s help, if only for a few hours. And they do not require you to be a member of their faith. You can contact the United Jewish Appeal, Catholic Family Charities, LDS Charities, the Baptist Youth Ministry, and dozens of others – all listed in your local Yellow Pages.
The United Way offers many service opportunities for both temporary and long-term volunteers. They often help with local food shelves and homeless shelters, among other service programs, and can always use some help stocking food pantries, serving meals to the homeless, and preparing gift baskets for those who might lack during the holidays.
If you are a veteran, check with your local VFW; they often sponsor holiday projects to make sure that no veteran in their locality goes without a warm dinner or warm clothes during the winter months.
You can also contact local food pantries and homeless shelters yourself to find out what specific needs they have. You and your family could hold a neighborhood food drive or winter coat collection to gather up and donate items that might otherwise never be used or even thrown away. Homeless shelters often have specific need of personal hygiene supplies, and will give you a list of supplies to purchase, package together, and bring to their shelter.
Don’t forget the fine work that the United States Marine Corps does with their annual Toys for Tots program. Similar programs are often conducted by your local firefighters and police departments. Think what it might mean to give your child money to buy toys – not for themselves, but for some other child who otherwise will not have any gifts during the holidays.
The Salvation Army does excellent work during the holidays in preparing and serving thousands of meals to those who are in distress; your family would be welcomed as a godsend to help prepare and serve a meal or two. And don’t forget to offer to stay and help wash the dishes afterwards. It may be the only time in their lives your children enjoy cleaning up after dinner!
Local service clubs like the Kiwanis and the Rotary Club always sponsor holiday service projects; everything from collecting old eyeglasses to ship to third-world countries to making holiday wreaths to sell to raise money for a local orphanage. Find out what your local service clubs are up to this holiday season; you may find an opportunity that is an exact fit for what you want your children to learn about.
The holidays are an especially difficult time of year for shut-ins and those confined to nursing homes. If your family has a musical bent, contact a nursing home and offer to come by to sing both religious and secular holiday songs for those who cannot go visiting any longer. And don’t forget to ask permission to bring your family dog or cat along; these animals have a magical way of cheering up the lonely and disabled.
The Red Cross not only collects and stores blood for emergencies, but is also concerned with stockpiling other essential supplies in case of a local disaster. Contact your local Red Cross agency to find out if you and your family can go on a shopping spree to supply them with medical and other vital supplies.
Is dating difficult for you? You’re not alone. For many, it’s much easier to go home after work and watch Spongebob Squarepants while eating trail mix instead of going out with someone and gradually getting to know them. Socializing and the possibility of romance are frustrating to those who worry they may wind up dating a cyborg or the next president of North Korea. To ease your dating anxiety we have made up a spurious list of 7 unrelated and unproven strategies that probably won’t do you any good, but hey; when you’re as desperate as you are you’ll try anything:
Show up on the first date driving a moped. This reveals both your thriftiness and your concern for the environment. Since there’s usually not room for two on a standard moped, one of you will have to walk. Weigh yourselves to see who needs the exercise most. This is always a fun conversation starter.
Have the lucky number 7 tattooed on your right nostril; this will give you a great deal of confidence, and when your date sees how well you present yourself he or she will probably want to spend the evening down at the local tattoo parlor getting the same thing done. Naturally, this precludes ever dating someone with a snub nose.
Avoid restaurant franchises for your meals together. Nothing dampens romance and intimacy more than dining on the same thing thousands of others are having at the same time and in the same setting. Instead, buy a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese, some cheap garlic summer sausage, and a bottle of maple syrup. Head for the nearest city park, spread your meal out on a plastic tarp, and then watch the urban wildlife swoop down to peck at it – bag ladies, skateboarders, and retirees on very fixed incomes. When the last crumb is gone, wrap up the tarp and donate it to the nearest food bank; that warm feeling you both experience in your bosoms afterwards is acid reflux.
Go fishing together. The couple that angles together dangles together. And you get to tell all the lies you want.
Be color conscious. You really say a lot to your date by the colors you favor. Green means you give permission (or you are a leprechaun). Red means power and domination, also heat rash. Yellow means doubt. Pink means grapefruit. White means you just did your laundry. And black means you NEED to do your laundry.
Don’t be afraid to suddenly fall into a deep coma during your date. This will tell him or her that you are completely comfortable in their presence.
Suddenly start speaking Tagalog to your date. Nothing impresses another person more than the gift of tongues. If you do not know how to speak Tagalog you should immediately stop your futile attempts at dating, retire to a monastery on the Isle of Patmos, and spend the next twenty years learning to conjugate Tagalog verbs. You will then be ready for the dating scene.
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Let me tell you some of the places in North America that have really fine tap water:
Tioga, North Dakota. Since putting in new wells back in the late 1980’s, this little village’s tap water has acquired a fresh and invigorating bouquet that makes it a pleasure to use for lemonade, soups, and coffee.
New York City. You might think that the tap water in the Big Apple must be polluted and full of subway grit. Not so. It has a smooth taste with a light touch of organic chemicals, and comes from reservoirs far to the north of Manhattan. It’s what makes their pizza dough so unique and delicious.
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Their tap water comes from mountain glaciers, and is so cold and crisp you can almost feel it crunch in your mouth. Natives of Whitehorse claim their tap water is so pure and strong that no one who drinks a glass of it each day ever has bad breath.
The reason for this little tap water tour is to remind us all that potable tap water is NOT a given in most of the world.
In Mexico the tap water must always be boiled, and then left for 24 hours, before it is considered safe to drink. A large majority of men and women in Mexico find it more convenient, and safer, to simply drink beer. For those who prefer not to include any alcohol in their diet, there are a large variety of Jarritos flavored mineral waters to choose from. But a steady diet of those sweet drinks tends to cloy the taste buds, making it difficult to enjoy the superb cuisine of Mexico. Should you happen to drink a glass of unboiled tap water, you can expect anything from a mild case of Montezuma’s Revenge to an infestation of parasites that will send you, clutching your stomach in agony, to the nearest hospital. This happened to the author many years ago, and he has never been able to look at a faucet since without a shudder.
Or take Thailand, for another example, where the author has lived for many years. Their municipal water works and purifying stations are just as up-to-date and effective as those here in the United States. When the water leaves the plant it is perfectly good to drink. The problem lies underground, where the water pipes have not been replaced in many a moon, and thus are cracked and porous, allowing all sorts of vicious characters from the surrounding soil to seep in and contaminate the water. Not even boiling it will save you from some deeply distressing and embarrassing episodes if you happen to drink it. Most foreigners in Thailand will not even brush their teeth with plain tap water.
With our mania for bottled water and reverse osmosis and other such fancy-schmancy trappings, we should remember, and be grateful, that we can step up to the kitchen faucet, or even the garden hose, anytime we please for a gulp of good old-fashioned tap water without fearing for the integrity of our gastro-intestinal system.
(While North America is currently a bastion of safe tap water, there’s no guarantee that this will last forever. You should make plans to protect your family from tainted water during a local or national emergency by having on hand a reliable water filtration system, such as AquaPail. This storable, fast-flowing, gravity –fed water filtration system is available from hikingware.com at a very reasonable price.)
The Walt Disney Company has given notice to the Boy Scouts of America that it will pull all funding to the group starting in 2015 because of a BSA membership policy that bans gay leaders, the entertainment company said Friday.
Disney does not give money directly to the national organization or local BSA councils. However, through its VoluntEARS program, Disney allows employees to do volunteer work in exchange for cash donations to the charities of their choice.
Employees taking part in the VoluntEARS program will no longer be able to submit the funds to the Boy Scouts, the organization said. The new policy will not affect Walt Disney employees who volunteer with the Scouts, the company said.
“We believe every child deserves the opportunity to be a part of the Scouting experience, and we are disappointed in this decision because it will impact our ability to serve kids,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement. “America’s youth need Scouting, and by continuing to focus on the goals that unite us, we continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”
According to Disney’s charitable giving guidelines, groups become ineligible to receive Disney funding if they “discriminate in the provision of services unlawfully or in a manner inconsistent with Disney’s policies on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age, marital status, mental or physical ability, or sexual orientation.”
We believe every child deserves the opportunity to be a part of the Scouting experience, and we are disappointed in this decision because it will impact our ability to serve kids. America’s youth need Scouting, and by continuing to focus on the goals that unite us, we continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.
–BSA spokesman Deron Smith
Disney would not divulge its formula for converting volunteer hours to dollars, but a chart on Disney’s corporate website shows that in 2010, employees raised $4.8 million via 548,000 volunteer hours, which works out to $8.79 an hour.
Among the events for which employees volunteered were a triathlon for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Revlon Run-Walk for cancer, Children’s Hospital of Orange County Walk at Disneyland Resort and the Champion 5K at ESPN for the V Foundation, according to Disney.
Deena Fidas, the director of workplace equality for the Human Rights Campaign, said Disney’s decision “carries a unique weight. When you think about brands that exemplify childhood, you think of Disney, and with them dissociating with BSA, it speaks volumes of where we are with the views we want to send to young people.”
In a recent report, HRC cited numerous victories in its quest to ensure workplace equality and applauded the majority of Fortune 500 companies that now offer sexual-orientation and gender-identity protections to their employees.
Despite that, “we know that over 50 percent of (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) employees remain closeted on the job,” the report said.
On Thursday, Scouts for Equality, which says it works to end discrimination within the BSA, praised a separate decision by Walt Disney World to end local support for the BSA’s Central Florida Council.
“We’re never happy to see Scouting suffer as a result of the BSA’s anti-gay policy, but Disney made the right decision to withhold support until Scouting is fully inclusive,” Eagle Scout and Scouts for Equality co-founder Zach Wahls said in a statement.
Scouts for Equality says Disney joins Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Major League Soccer, Merck, Intel and UPS as companies who have ended partnerships with the Scouts because of its policy. Fidas said Alcoa and AT&T are also on that list.