Come early to ‘Barnum Bash’ for inside look at circus life

The real fun at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum &Bailey “Barnum Bash” at Comcast Arena this weekend is going to begin even before the bash starts.

One hour before the show, there’s a huge pre-show party hosted by multifaceted clown DJ Dean Kelley, who, among his many talents, will be balancing brooms and bicycles on his face.

Then DJ Dean will teach anyone there how to do some cool dance moves or how to balance feathers.

The pre-show is free with your ticket and you can also go backstage and see some exotic animals as well as performances you won’t see in the actual show.

“For me it’s improv. I get to do a lot of that with the audience during the pre-show,” Kelley said in a phone interview. “I host the pre-show and I get everybody going.”

These pre-show parties have been part of the Ringling Bros. Circus experience since about 1995, Kelley said, but a lot of people don’t know to take advantage of it.

“You come an hour early and that’s where you get a one-on-one connection, cool pictures and get to figure out what the characters in the show are all about,” Kelley said.

The premise for this Ringling Bros. “Barnum Bash” begins with an introduction of the Ringlettes, stylish hosts of what might be the swankiest circus party in town.

The story line for this circus show is that everyone who is anyone is invited to this swanky party, except Anton, a lovable, goofy hipster of a clown, who is a “bit of a nuisance,” Kelley said.

“Anton, he just wants to be part of the bash and at the very end it all works out,” Kelley said.

When the “Barnum Bash” show starts, the international cast will be ready to perform feats of strength, to contemporary pop music and in 21st century Barnum style, according to press material.

You will see performing dogs and camels, acrobatics 30 feet in the air, incredible and dual fusion hand balancing acts where the woman does all the heavy lifting of her male partner, all the while wearing red, 3-inch high heels, Kelley said.

Clown DJ Kelley is a sight to behold himself with a huge cowlick that stands straight up on top of his bright orange wig.

According to his bio, Kelley auditioned in 2002 for Ringling Bros. at the first open call for clowns held in 30 years. He was hired on the spot.

Kelley is often called by his peers the “Swiss Army Knife” of clowns because of his multifaceted circus skills, which include juggling, stilt walking, unicycle riding, balancing and spinning objects and making sound effects. Kelley also enjoys singing karaoke, playing the trumpet and, on occasion, bungee jumping.

“It’s very family oriented. It’s three hours of live entertainment,” Kelley said of this Ringling Bros. production. “It’s really cool that you can always take your family there and have a great time.”

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424;

“Barnum Bash”

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday at Comcast Arena, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett. Tickets start at $26. Call 866-332-8499 or go to

This year, Barnum Bash pays tribute to the Armed Forces by giving military personnel and their families a $10 ticket deal to the following shows: 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday.

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