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Circus blames towns for area no-shows

Towns say organization failed to get necessary permits

GREENFIELD — The circus didn’t come to town Sunday, disappointing children and leaving questions. A Piccadilly Circus representative blamed the city and the two other Massachusetts municipalities in which the circus canceled shows Saturday through Monday.

Circus-goers were met at the Franklin County Fairground gates Sunday first by volunteers and later by printed notices.

Fred Steiner, president of the Franklin County Agricultural Society, said his organization rented out the fairgrounds to Piccadilly Circus and met people at the gates after learning the show was canceled.

“We didn’t know until about an hour-and-a-half before the first show that they didn’t show up,” Steiner said.

“We started doing some checking and we were able to get through to the people who run it and found out that there was an issue with permits with the town, and instead of telling us this Friday so we could make sure that things got into the radio or something, no, they just blew right past us and went to another town,” Steiner said. “I really felt bad for the kids.”

Steiner said he couldn’t get through to the media in time and couldn’t think of another way to warn people quickly that the circus would not be there when they arrived.

A circus representative said the Piccadilly Circus website announced the cancellation by email to those who had purchased tickets online and posted the information on its website. No announcement could be found on the website Sunday.

A person identifying herself as “Melissa, the assistant,” who twice hung up while being asked for her last name, said the problem was with Greenfield.

“It was something with the city. We’ve been doing the same thing for 40-plus years, over 200 cities per year, so I mean we went about the permits and everything the same way we always do, but the city proved to be ... I guess they just didn’t want us there,” Melissa said.

The same went for Pittsfield and Adams.

“We also had problems with the city; it’s something about that area. They just did not want us there, I guess. I don’t know what else to say,” Melissa said.

In Greenfield, the circus did not receive the entertainment license and associated permits from the town health department, building inspector or electrical inspector.

Permit problems

Greenfield Health Director Nicole Zabko said the circus organizers got in touch late, were told what documents and inspections were required and didn’t follow through.

“In this case, the circus was very late to apply for their entertainment license, and they did not meet the requirements that enabled the city to approve them,” Zabko said. “I would say it was just very poor planning on their end.”

Zabko said license applicants go through the licensing commission and the commission assistant contacts any department that might require a permit.

“Usually we hear from the licensing commission anywhere from about four months to about three weeks out for an event. We heard about this (last) Wednesday — so, just really late,” Zabko said.

Safety inspection reports on equipment such as the stands spectators would have sat on and documentation of the health and legality of exotic animals were required but not received, Zabko said.

“We did try to work with them but things came down to the wire on late Friday afternoon and it became apparent that they weren’t going to be able to produce the information that was required, nor at that point had they submitted permit applications, either,” she said.

No license was issued and the circus did not materialize, as it did not in Adams and Pittsfield, where Zabko said she understood from those town halls that the same situation had occurred.

Zabko said the process is all about health and safety, but varies from state to state and town to town, and the process could be different than what the Florida-based circus is used to.

Melissa said she isn’t in charge of the circus licensing department and couldn’t speak to the process.

In Adams, where the first show would have been held Saturday, Building Commissioner Don Fitzgerald said he pulled the plug on the circus on Thursday afternoon after the company provided some but not all of the information required and left no time for inspections.

“In our town? Bottom line was ... they did not even contact the town. What happened was we heard through the grapevine when somebody asked if Adams allowed elephants and camels,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said he wrote in his email to the company that they would have loved to have the circus if they had applied in time and met the requirements.

“The rules are there for life-safety reasons, not just arbitrary, capricious rules,” Fitzgerald said. “We like circuses; we don’t like fiascoes.”

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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