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Photos: The circus is in town

Father’s day weekend two years ago was bittersweet. It was my second father’s day without my dad as he passed away in January of 2014. He truly loved his family and his granddaughter, Delilah and would have been overjoyed with our latest edition. He would also love the adventures that we take, which I'll get to in just a minute.

It's important to note that New Orleans is one of those cities that just takes hold of you, and that's just what it did to me and my wife.  After a lots of schools and degrees, a marriage, and moving around to various cities, my wife and I moved back to New Orleans to start another chapter in our lives. A little over two and a half years on the day after President Obamas re-election we were blessed with an amazing daughter Delilah. Then our son came along in September of 2015. Now onto those adventures I mentioned earlier. A year ago, the circus rolled into New Orleans and took up residence at the Smoothie King Center.

As a child, I have vague memories of the circus. I remember being there and flashes of broken memories are hard to place. My wife, on the other hand, has strong memories of the freshly made cotton candy of which the circus has long left the tradition.

So we took our amazingly inquisitive daughter to the circus (and her brother too). I know she probably won’t remember much, if anything, from that night in the years to come, so I did my best to preserve the moments. There’s just something so amazing in the way she looks at the world and you can see it in her face, but I can’t even begin to understand what’s going on in there. The things we’ll take away from the experience, less the protesters, will be the amazing feeling of hope and love.

We arrived early to take in the pre-show and were delighted to see an elephant up so close and as a bonus, were able to watch her paint. The Asian elephants (check out their ear size) were treated with respect and kindness the whole night and were one of Delilah’s favorite things, as well as the clowns and, oddly enough, the steel globe. I guess it helped that we were far enough away the motorcycle noises didn’t bother her. She was generally captivated by the act and when the lights went out and the neon flashes all blurred together she was most excited. Funny enough, one act we thought she’d like was the lions, but she didn’t. I don’t think she was too fond of them snapping at the lion tamer.

So the weekend came to an end and she’s already looking forward to the next time the circus comes to town. It will be a different version, but I’m hoping it’s not one without elephants. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to shoot the opening introduction sequence on Thursday night. You can see more of my pictures here.

The story continues by sheer accident. Emmett is now ten months old and Delilah will be four too soon.

We decided to go back to the circus this year and see how it has evolved from the last time we all were there. Delilah kept asking where the elephants were and we had to tell her that they were in a better place. The tigers that scared her last year were oddly enough her favorite part of the show. Emmett sat snuggly in the mommy carrier, looking over his shoulder every now and again to try and get a glimpse of what was going on. His enjoyment was rounded in the live band, while Delilah couldn’t help but dance.

It will always be in the nature of the circus to evolve, but this evolution from last year to this was massive to say the least. The pageantry is still there, but it comes across in different ways now. The aerial acts were a bit more majestic and the substitution of the steel globe for a pendulum walker was just as stressful and breathtaking.

This year’s circus as opposed to last year’s seems to focus more on the human achievement, while still cheating a grand exhibition. If you get a chance, the circus will be in town through Sunday, so go and check it out. I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.

Steven Hatley is a New Orleans-based photographer. You can find more of his photography here.