BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Clowns, ponies, dancing dogs and trapezes artists came to town for about 700 lucky youngsters Tuesday, as St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation hosted its 14th annual Zebrini Family Circus in Bridgeport for children with cancer, chronic diseases and special needs.
And the Florida-based traveling troupe will be back again Wednesday for a second round of circus shenanigans before another 600 to 700 children under a Beardsley Park big top, said Lyn McCarthy, the foundation’s executive director.
“Why do we do this?” she said. “If you see the smiles on the kids’ faces when the circus starts, that in itself is all we need.”
The invitation-only event, funded by a generous gift from Elizabeth M. Pfriem of Southport, brings children from across the region, including many from Bridgeport schools. Pfriem, a former ringmaster of the city’s Barnum Festival, has supported the event each year, McCarthy said.
“A lot of these children have never been to the circus,” McCarthy said.
The show started with an aerialist who wowed the crowd by tumbling from the top of the blue-and-yellow striped tent, catching herself just before hitting the center of the circus ring. Tail-wagging dogs showed off, climbing ladders and slipping down slides before a contortionist pretending to be a rag doll took center stage.
Cheers went up as the curtain opened to four prancing ponies who galloped in tight precision circles just feet from the front row.
The annual circus takes support from many staffers and volunteers, McCarthy said. Each child receives a commemorative T-shirt, a boxed lunch to enjoy during the 90-minute show and cotton candy as they prepare to board the busses back to school.
“It’s just a little bit of everything and they really enjoy it,” McCarthy said.
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