The large yellow tent on the edge of the Midway at the Missouri State Fair only had a few empty seats left Tuesday afternoon as the Amazing Anastasini Circus began its first show of the day — and it turns out the show is a bit of a family affair.
Three generations of Anastasinis are performing in the circus at the Missouri State Fair, marking nine generations since the show began in 1877. Grandfather Renato — fondly referred to as Nonno, which means grandfather in Italian — father Luciano, and Luciano’s sons, Adriano and Brando, all are involved in this year’s circus. The week is a little more special for Adriano and Brando though — Adriano made his debut as Ringmaster while at the state fair, and Brando debuted his low wire act. All three Anastasinis said their 2014 circus showcases the “next generation coming in.”
Adriano, 18, looks like a natural in the ring, as though he’s been taking command of the circus for years as he announces each act and interacts with his father, who portrayed a clown pestering the new ringmaster during Tuesday’s performance.
“It was actually really fun,” Adriano said of his new role. “At first I was nervous because I only ever practiced once and I didn’t even know the names of the performers. It was just kind of jump in and do it.”
“He was born in the business,” Luciano said of Adriano. “He’s here with us and naturally looking to other ringmasters, myself, my brother, other folks. Without him noticing it he realizes what he has to do.”
“The first show I was very nervous, but it seems like it’s coming more naturally now,” Adriano added.
Brando only started practicing his new act in December, with practice taking up much of his day. Luciano said Brando practices for five hours in the morning, takes a couple of hours off for lunch and to rest, and then practices another two or three hours in the afternoon. Most of his training was running on the cable.
“The very first show was nerve-wracking, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it,” Brando said. “But I did it, and the only way I would’ve ever done it is if I had my dad, my brother, my grandfather’s encouragement, pushing me. When you work so hard in an act to balance, I would’ve never done it without them.”
Just like his older brother, Brando looks like a veteran member of the circus as he walks — and jumps — across the low wire with ease. He only fell off the low wire twice during his performance, both at the very end, and the audience didn’t blame him — the 15-year-old was attempting to do a somersault and land on the wire each time. His first attempt saw him almost land on the thin wire, but he stumbled at the last second. Determined to succeed with this daring trick, Brando signaled to his brother he was trying again, but again just barely slipped off the wire. The audience didn’t seem to mind though, as they gave him a large round of applause as he exited the ring.
For the Anastasini family, Tuesday was just another day at the office, along with enjoying some carnival rides and shows. Adriano, who said he was born while the family was on tour, said he and his brother don’t know anything different.
“We’ve been to 49 states, all except Alaska,” he said. “It’s like a huge vacation all year round. We live in Florida, and if we’re home more than two or three weeks, we want to get back on the road again.”
“They can’t sit still much,” Luciano added.
As smaller family circuses begin to shut down their tents for various reasons, the Anastasini Circus has kept going strong for more than a century as audiences continue to enjoy clowns, low wire acts, aerial acts, jugglers and hula-hoopers.
“We travel around the world as a family,” Luciano said. “Like every other family we have our ups and downs and we have to try to get along, but the most important part of that is we have a unity, like a lot of families here in the United States. What we have is really cool, is that we travel around the world. We went to Japan, South Africa, most of Europe, we’re here in Sedalia, we’re coming often now to Sedalia. We have a lot of friends here in Sedalia. We see a lot of the world — the snow, the sea, the mountains, people of different cultures. Different people when you interview them, they don’t realize how much they see.”
When the show is over, Luciano said he and his family have one goal — to make sure everyone in the audience smiled.
“Our job is to help you forget your troubles for 45 minutes,” he said. “If we can get you to smile, forget your payments, whatever your problems are, we did our job. That’s what my grandfather used to tell me. That’s our goal. We are keeping the tradition going.”
The Amazing Anastasini Circus will be performing at 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. every day during the fair. For more information and to follow the Anastasini Circus’ adventures all over the world, search for “Circus Anastasini” on Facebook.