A family circus for five generations

Circle of grace: Gymnast Nicole Coronas dances and contorts her body high above the ground during her performance at Circus Hollywood Tuesday.

Poodle performance: The hula-hooping Crystal Coronas and her pack of poodles put on an act at Circus Hollywood.

Magic under the big top: A trio of magicians dance and tease the audience after a spectacular change of outfit. With but a wave of fabric, the three seem to change their clothes at will throughout the circus show at the Altamont Fair.

ALTAMONT — Have you ever wanted to join the circus?

Serge Coronas Jr. and his family have been a part of the big top for five generations.

“It’s a family thing. It’s in our blood,” explained Coronas. “Our family was wire walkers. There are a lot of families that do it — they tend to have their thing; others might be daredevils.”

He proudly recalled the brazen high wire acts of his grandfather, Charles Coronas.

He turns 101 years old in November and still occasionally comes to watch his family perform.

Though Serge Coronas Jr. might have started out in a family of wire walkers, he’s also a daredevil, performing in the circus’s motorcycle cage act, where he and another rider defy gravity by racing around inside a metal-framed globe, about 15 feet in diameter.

In actuality, though, Coronas said being apart of a circus means being a jack-of-all-trades. One of his first acts was juggling.

Circus Hollywood is performing at the Altamont Fair twice a day, at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. , through Sunday.

By the time the fair ends on Aug. 18, Coronas estimated more than 10,000 people would see the show.

The Hollywood Circus tent is 150 by 150 feet, holding 1,200 people in the center of the fair’s in field. The circus has seven revolving acts with camels, horses, dogs, clowns, daredevils, magicians and trapeze artists.

The show, animals, tents and all the gear is compacted onto the back of 12 semi-trailers for travel and it can take about 20 men an entire day to set it up under quick and ideal conditions. Often the circus will ask fair organizers for volunteers when they first come to town.

During the main traveling season, which is from July to December, the circus leaves its headquarters in Florida and visits several states, putting on countless performances that entertain thousands of fair-goers across the country. Near his home in Florida, and when not traveling, the Coronas family operates a zoo and show all year long. 

Before coming to venues in New York, the show wove a trail through New Jersey and will be heading to New Hampshire soon.

“We do a show two or three times a day. We perform for five days, 10 days, 12 days in a row sometimes,” said Coronas.

It’s not uncommon for the staff’s workdays to go from 7 a.m. to past midnight when putting on performances, he said.

The circus will have to be ready to perform again 10 days after the last show in Altamont. Now is a particularly busy season, said Coronas, explaining the show had to be at a new venue almost every week for the next two months.

What routine for his family is novel for to others.

“In the last two or three weeks I’ve been running into some people who’ve never been to the circus before,” said Coronas.

One woman who had come with a friend to see the show for the first time found Coronos after his performance and thanked him.

“She was just so excited,” he recalled with a smile.

Coronas said one of his favorite parts of doing the show is seeing the joy children and adults get from watching it.

Circus Hollywood is certainly a family business. Serge’s father, Serge Coronas senior, is the show’s manager and his mother, Stevie, does stunts with a team of Friesian horses.

Coronas’s wife, LLetsira, does similar feats, but with a mixed team of camels, horses, and lamas. His two sisters are also performers. Nicole Coronas does a wide range of gymnastics, often high in the air, and Crystal Coronas specializes in the hula-hoop and has an act with dogs doing tricks.

Serge’s brother, Cristian Coronas, also does gymnastics but takes part in a magic act with a mother-and-son duo, Romanian magicians Elena and Vyotel Bilea.

And, of course, what circus could be complete without a clown? Circus Hollywood features BiBi the Clown, who keeps the crowd laughing between acts. He picks out the occasional volunteers for some audience involvement.

Crystal said she sometimes trains her animals for months before becoming part of show and that many in the group loved their animals.

Serge Jr. agreed saying the animals are a top priority.

“That’s why we have seven acts but only five per show. We rotate them to give the animals a break,” said Coronas.

The entire Hollywood Circus show lasts from between 30 to 45 minutes, meaning each act is only a few minutes long. So, when animals are performing, they are in the ring for several minutes at a time and then get a hours off before the next.

Cornonas said well-cared-for animals were less aggressive, easier to train and control, and healthier, all positive things for the circus.

“A lot of times, after a show we take care of them first. They get fed and drink before I do,” said Coronas.