“I wonder what the folks at home are doing for the Fourth of July?” I was homesick for the United States and my family. As a clown with Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey’s Gold Unit in 1988, I was performing in a giant tent in Tokyo, Japan. It was the furthest I’d ever been from home and my second year traveling. I missed the good ole US of A. It seemed I was not the only one and much of the cast decided we would have a great big Fourth of July BBQ in the tent.
Everyone from every country turned out for the party, not just the Americans. The acrobats, flyers, animal handlers, clowns, showgirls, musicians, the ringmaster, wardrobe, and techies, everyone wanted to celebrate the land we missed so very much. Creative people from countries all over the world came together to party.
So what does a Fourth of July in Japan with the Greatest Show on Earth look like?
We were fortunate to have that big tent to hold our party because it was pouring outside. It seemed to be raining often during our stay in Japan. A makeshift grill was just outside the back door with lots of meat of some kind cooking away. On our little grills, hot plates and microwaves we managed to make dishes like potato salad, deviled eggs, pasta salad, and other picnic favorites. An old-fashioned potluck supper was put together. It had a certain oriental flair but it close enough for this homesick clown.
The aerial equipment was lowered a bit and a huge American flag was hung from it. Someone set up a TV and VCR on the seats and we played videos of all our favorite American sit-coms.
Some of the performers created a huge slip and slide using the clown soap mats and a few hoses. We had a few children on the tour and those little guys had a ball being slid down the mat, laughing all the way. One of the clowns at the end of the slide would toss a bucket of water on them at the end and stop them from sliding onto the asphalt. To be honest, not just the kids enjoyed that slip and slide. The adults joined right in. There were RV car races around the circus track, lots of Bruce Springsteen and other distinctly American music playing on the sound system and dancing.
As the day came to end everyone was anticipating the fireworks. We were in Japan after all; we should be able to get great fireworks there. Even though the rain steadily came down the performers hoped for an exciting display. One by one the explosives just fizzled out. What didn’t fizzle out was our pride in our home country and the fun we had in that far away place. Experiences like this made us family and even though some of us haven’t seen each other in 20 years we have a bond that can never be broken.