Elephants parade Downtown as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus returns to town

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It is not a common sight, to see elephants walking through Downtown Pittsburgh, said Thomas Dearer, who stood with his two grandsons this morning at Grant Street and Liberty Avenue.

But today, the West Mifflin grandfather told 6-year-old Nicholas and 5-year-old Devin, that is exactly what they would see.

The elephants, he said, would march down the street, walking “trunk to tail.”

And that’s just what they did.

Five elephants, four of them marching with their trunks grabbing hold of the tail ahead of them, arrived Downtown this morning as promised, though about an hour behind schedule.

With a police escort ahead of them, and several horses following behind, they made their way at a fast clip along Grant Street, then up Sixth Avenue, to Centre Avenue and around the Consol Energy Center to Fifth Avenue. Along the way, grandparents and parents with young children, office workers emerging from their workplaces and drivers whose travel was temporarily halted all stopped, for a few minutes, to gawk.

It is Election Day, but the elephants were not part of a a last-minute Republican campaign to get out the vote.

Instead, they were a sign that the circus had come to town.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will present shows from Wednesday through Sunday at the Consol Energy Center, and today, the elephants, which traveled with the circus from Rochester, N.Y., did their traditional march from the train to the circus.

“It lets everybody know that we’re here,” said Jessica Clowers, veterinary technician for the circus. “Walking elephants through the city gets a little bit of attention.”

The Asian elephants are all females, ranging in age from 5 to 44 years and weighing about 9,000 pounds each.

They were hard to miss, even for people who didn’t expect to see them.

Such as Haley Kozlowski, 35, the catering and events manager at the TGIFriday’s restaurant at the Consol Energy Center. She was walking to work when she saw the police presence and knew something was happening.

She didn’t expect it to be an elephant parade.

“They’re gorgeous though,” she said, after taking a picture that she said she’ll be posting to Facebook. “It’s so cool seeing them up close like that.”

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com

First Published November 5, 2013 3:59 PM

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