Easton Leifheit had never seen an elephant in his life.
But on Friday, the 2-year-old met one face to face when his dad, firefighter Ryan Leifheit, and two coworkers with the Ravenna Township Fire Department bathed two female Asian elephants. The boy's parents said he had never seen an elephant in person, falling asleep when they visited the zoo.
The Carson and Barnes Circus rolled into Sunbeau Valley Farm in Ravenna Township Friday, where visitors came to watch performances in the afternoon and evening. Many arrived early to watch the Big Top go up or to see the elephant bath before the show.
Louie Delmoral, elephant superintendent, guided the firefighters as they bathed the elephants, Del Rita, 39, and Whimpy, 40. Both laid down as Delmoral and the firefighters scrubbed them, using special brushes and Murphy's Oil Soap, and opened their mouths for a blast of water from the fire hose. Delmoral noted that cleans their teeth.
Don Viall, owner of Sunbeau, watched the bath as delighted as the families who had come to watch. The crowd clapped when the elephants sounded their trunks after the baths.
"They love it," Viall said of the elephants.
The elephants, brought to the United States as babies after ivory hunters had slaughtered the adults in their herd, have been with the Carson and Barnes circus for 25 years, Delmoral said. The circus, based in Oklahoma, has been owned by the same family for 60 years.
Delmoral described both as "amazing, wonderful animals" who are "very intelligent." They consume at least 200 pounds of food daily and 50 gallons of water.
When circumstances permit, Delmoral likes to take them to lakes or rivers to play in mud amid the trees and water.
"They get to do what they do in the wild, too," he said.
Later, one of the elephants gave a ride to members of the Ravenna High School football team's coaching staff to open the circus.
Nancy Gaona, floor supervisor at the circus, said the show includes the "Fantastic Globe of Death," which includes three motorcycles spinning inside the globe, as well as trapeze artists, acrobats, clowns, dogs, horses and elephants.
"It's a really good show," she said. "It has a little bit of everything."
Jodi Crafis of Kent brought her son, Aaron, 4, to the petting zoo where he fed the goats. Aaron said he was looking forward to seeing the clowns because "they do silly things."
Among those waiting for the show were Mary Carr and her granddaughter, Sydney Pritts, 4, along with Janet Giulitto of Rootstown and her granddaughter, Gianna, 5.
Sydney and Gianna said they liked the elephant ride the best.
"It was wobbly," Sydney said. Pointing to Gianna, she added, "She thought I was afraid I was going to fall, and I was not."
The circus opens at Sunbeau on S.R. 59 west of Ravenna today for performances at 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets the day of the circus are $10 for children ages 11 and younger and $16 for adults. The elephant bath is at 11 a.m. and is expected to be done by circus staff.
Facebook: Diane Smith, Record-Courier