Elephants prepare for opening night at Ringling Bros. circus in Kennewick

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 25, 2013 

Elephant Bath

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey animal trainer Brett Carden, sprays down two of the show's Asian elephants Wednesday in the parking lot of the Toyota Center in Kennewick. The circus is in town for 6 shows at the center today Thursday through Sunday. Ticket prices range from $20-35 with special discount kids tickets available for $10. After the bath the two elephants feasted on more than 150 pounds of fruit and vegetables and all the hay they could eat.

RICHARD DICKIN — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

It took only minutes for two 8,000-plus pound Asian elephants to devour piles of bananas, carrots, apples, lettuce and slices of bread on buffet tables Wednesday outside the Toyota Center.

Once there was no evidence the meal had taken place, the pride of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus strolled back toward the arena to prepare for opening night.

"They (each) eat around 300 pounds of food a day," said trainer Brett Carden.

Patty and Carole, both 39, have been with the circus since they were babies. The female elephants were brought to the U.S. from Bangkok, Thailand.

The duo and another elephant will take the stage starting tonight when the circus opens at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. The show runs through Sunday. Tickets start at $20 for adults and $10 for kids ages to 12. Opening-night show tickets cost $10 for general seating.

Patty and Carole perform an acrobatic routine, which even includes headstands. They were trained from childhood to do the tricks, responding to verbal commands.

"They are highly intelligent animals," said trainer Cathy Carden. "The elephants like their routine and don't like to deviate from it."

When they are not at the circus, Patty and Carole live on a farm in Missouri. They escape the Missouri winters by hanging out in Florida with other elephants.

Patty and Carole have been together since birth, and their time together has forged a sibling-like connection.

"Carole is the bully type. She picks on Patty," Brett Carden said. "Patty is the more laid-back one."

Patty and Carole flapped their ears -- behavior their trainers liken to a dog wagging its tail -- as they took showers Wednesday in the Toyota Center parking lot. The animals seemed to enjoy themselves as they were sprayed with a hose and rubbed down with soap.

"They are just so beautiful and so majestic," Cathy Carden said.

Though their playful nature was evident as they got a bath, Patty and Carole are all business when the time comes to perform.

"They enjoy working," Brett Carden said. "When that music comes on, they get real excited."

The Tri-Cities is the 39th stop this season for the circus, which started its tour on Christmas Day. There are seven stops left.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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