The Zerbini Family Circus may only be a one-ring act, but the close-knit family of traveling performers manages to cram quite a bit of excitement under the big top tent.
"We are a circus that's steeped in tradition," said Melody Ramirez. Daughter of the circus owner, Alain Zerbini and the show's official ringmaster.
The actual Zerbini Circus has been in existence for nearly a century in other parts of the world, Ramirez said, and the American act has been around for about 20 years. It's truly a family act - Ramirez said everyone including her brother, Julian, as well as her father are involved. And the performers who aren't related - from animals to people - are still seen as members of the family. Eight generations of Zerbinis have been involved in the business, according to their website.
When they're not traveling around the eastern half of the country, bringing their "traditional American circus" to the masses, the Zerbini family resides in Florida where they spend part of the off-season polishing their acts, bringing on new talent and making repairs to the equipment.
The acts that are part of the Zerbini Circus hail from all over the world, Ramirez said. There are performers from Mexico, Chile and Peru. They do everything from comedy and juggling to balancing acts, trapeze and working with the animals.
"The animals are part of the family," Ramirez pointed out. When the circus isn't on the road, the animals roam around the family's 20-acre homestead in Florida.
And here's an interesting fact: it only takes about three hours to get the tent, ring and concession stands set up once the circus pulls into town. When the shows have drawn to a close, it takes just 45 minutes or so to disassemble everything.
"We all pitch it," Ramirez said. And she means it. Everyone from the aerialists to those who sell funnel cakes and cotton candy during the show - about 15 people - take part in breaking down the tent and preparing to get back on the road. They travel from state to state in trailers and tour buses from about mid-May through October.
The Zerbini Family Circus' appearance in Cranford was sponsored by the Cranford Chamber of Commerce and TD Bank. The final performances will be Thursday, June 28. Show times are at 5:15 and 7:30 p.m. each day at . Advance tickets are on sale at: TD Bank, , and . Advance tickets are $8, day of show tickets are $12. Tickets can be purchased at the door. There is a concession stand and circus toys are also on sale. Audience members can also purchase tickets to have children ride a camel or pony, or have their picture taken with a 5-foot python or a pony during intermission.