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The Circus is Coming to Alpharetta

Big Apple Circus will set up its big top tent in Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre's parking lot in February 2013.

The circus is coming to town! Yes, Big Apple Circus will be in Alpharetta from Feb.1-17, setting up the big top in Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre's parking lot.

Alpharetta City Council had to approve the special event because it will be held for more than four days.

The one-ring circus will have shows twice a day, with no Monday performances. Worried about the weather? Don't, circus officials say, because the big top tent will be climate controlled.

Tickets are priced between $20 and $60 at the Big Apple Circus site, but look for promotional opportunities to get discounts.

Tom Larson, vice president and general manager of Big Apple Circus, said it is a nonprofit that presents its shows in a very intimate setting, a very theatrical, European-style circus. The circus is a means to fund five programs, with the most important being Clown Care. Big Apple Circus was the originating circus offering hospital "clown care," and it has programs at Egleston and Scottish Rite hospitals, he said. The circus used to visit metro Atlanta, first at Lakewood and then at Stone Mountain. But the economy forced them to stop after those visits in the 1990s.

"The recession hit us hard as did everyone," Larson said.

They weren't able to come back because of the expense, but still felt a connection to the Atlanta area. Now Alpharetta's demographics have drawn them back.

Big Apple Circus already wants to schedule return visits before the first show in Alpharetta, and Larson said a successful run can help fund its programs. In addition to Clown Care, Big Apple sponsors special performances for the hearing and sight impaired. Clown Care also visits homes for the elderly, and has an after school training program in Boston and New York. If the circus can keep coming back to Alpharetta, Larson believes an after school program for at risk children in the Alpharetta area would be possible.

The big top will be erected within parking lot A at the amphitheater, the lower lot accessed via Founders Parkway. The tent will take up about half the 800-space parking lot, leaving 400 spes for circus patrons. If needed, the amphitheater's other parking areas could be opened up and shuttles used.

Kathi Cook, assistant director of the Community Development Department, said the tent can hold up to 1,700 people.

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