In America’s early days, fire jugglers, tumbling acrobats, rope walkers, magicians — indeed, clever characters of all sorts — used to travel the countryside as a ragged band of entertainers, setting up shop at various locations. This is how the traditional American circus began, and it’s possible to experience that again this Memorial Day weekend at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, when the Historic Hudson Valley site gets taken over by “Animals & Acrobats.”
A Memorial Day weekend tradition, the event is in for major upgrades this year, including a new elevated stage “in the round,” Ringmaster Jonathan Kruk, and a gaggle of new acts, musicians, and curiosities like “The Invisible Lady,” who isn’t there but can somehow magically “see” you.
And did I mention free popcorn?
“We have put so much effort into this year’s Animals & Acrobats,” said Althea Corey, site director of Van Cortlandt Manor. “Visitors consistently tell us how much they love this experience, and we hope we’ve made it even more appealing.”
Taking place, Saturday-Monday, May 29-31, from 10-6pm, the event features continuous performances. New acts include:
- A Different Spin — Formed at Vassar College, this group melds fire juggling, daring acrobatics, and comedy.
- Two by Two Zoo — This conservation group educates the public about fascinating wildlife. Hopping kangaroos, flying lemurs, hilarious monkeys, pythons, parrots, and goats are some of the traveling stars!
- Wolf Conservation Center — This group has a similar mission to Two by Two, but focusing entirely on wolves. “Ambassador wolf” Atka will be there Sunday and Monday.
- Bells & Motley — Storytelling, dance, and olden music featuring a hurdy-gurdy.
- The Invisible Lady — Ask your questions and the Invisible Lady will tell you the correct answers. Be amazed as this ethereal spirit is able to magically “see” and describe you.
Returning favorites include birds of prey demonstrations from Flight of the Raptor, tumbling acrobats, tightrope walkers, jugglers, magicians, fortune-tellers, mimes, storytellers, and horse-drawn wagon rides. Picnic fare, treats, and beverages will be available.
Also on display will be a life-size replica of a giant mastodon skeleton discovered some 200 years ago in the Hudson Valley. Popularly called a “Mammoth” or “Behemoth,” this extinct carnivore was almost lost entirely to history until workmen digging on a farm near Newburgh uncovered a massive femur, which led to the eventual discovery of the full mastodon. Later in the 19th century, Rembrandt Peale acquired the skeleton and took the curiosity on the road in Europe and America, where it drew large crowds of astonished onlookers. The mastodon replica is the brainchild of Michael Natiello, an artist and creator of Van Cortlandt Manor’s Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for children 5-17, free for children under five and HHV members. If you buy tickets online at HYPERLINK “http://www.hudsonvalley.org” www.hudsonvalley.org, you can get free popcorn for everyone in your party under 18.
“Now that is truly a great deal,” said Ms. Corey.