Fresh from surviving an inferno that engulfed his family traveling home on a New Jersey highway, Jonathan Wood will bring “The Raptor Project,” thrilling demonstrations of birds of prey, to Animals & Acrobats—an early American traveling circus featuring juggling, tightrope walking, magic, horse and wagon rides, and touchable farm animals—at Van Cortlandt Manor. It’s just one of a number of family activities that are part of Animals & Acrobats, which re-creates an early American circus.
Mr. Wood’s traveling menagerie of live eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls—many of which were rescued by Mr. Wood from tragic circumstances—will be on display during all three days of the event, which takes place 10-5 p.m. at Van Cortlandt Manor, Saturday, May 27; Sunday, May 28; and Memorial Day, Monday, May 29.
On Dec. 5, 2005, Mr. Wood and his family survived a devastating fire that destroyed their traveling home and show trailer. “Flames that originated in the engine compartment quickly engulfed our entire 40-foot rig and within minutes, spread to our 20-foot show trailer containing our live eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls,” said Mr. Wood. Miraculously, Mr. Wood and his family were unhurt, and all the birds survived. Though some “Raptor Project” shows had to be cancelled, the group is now back on the road.
Besides Mr. Wood’s animals, Animals & Acrobats will feature Percheron horse and wagon rides (Sunday and Monday only), and “Small Farm on the Moo-ve,” a program presented by students from the Green Chimneys School in Brewster, New York, that features farm animals kids can touch (Saturday and Sunday only, noon-4). Organizers will bring chickens, ducks, rabbits, a piglet, baby goats, and sheep to Van Cortlandt Manor and talk about the animals and how to care for them.
Animals & Acrobats is an opportunity for visitors to experience an early American traveling circus, complete with juggler Will Shaw; magic by “Mr. Bailey”; tightrope walker Bruce Robertson-Smith; story telling with April Armstrong; Fred Greenspan’s Punch & Judy Shows; fortune-telling by mystic Glenda Hughes; music by Jim Keyes and Felix Farrar; and of course, an array of picnic foods.
The early American circus, which is brought to life during Animals & Acrobats, originated two hundred years ago when Americans took to the road in great numbers. Each spring and summer men, women, and children left the settled regions of the eastern seaboard, looking for new lands to farm. Scattered among these migrants were a small number of men, and occasionally women, who made a meager living as itinerant entertainers, carrying acts on their backs, or across a saddle, fascinating audiences with entertainment that has been popular for thousands of years.
Admission to Van Cortlandt Manor is $10 for adults; $9 for seniors; $6 for children 5-17; and free for children under 5 and HHV members. Van Cortlandt Manor, a Historic Hudson Valley site, is at 525 South Riverside Avenue (off Route 9) in Croton-on-Hudson. the Croton Point Avenue exit from Route 9 and follow the signs. For information, please call 914-271-8981 or go to www.hudsonvalley.org.