Andrew Hicks is one of those kids who grew up dreaming of running away to join the circus.
And then one day, he did.
"All my life I wanted to be a clown, ever since I watched a documentary about Clown College when I was just a little kid," Hicks told the Herald. "I loved everything about the circus, but it was always the clowns who infatuated me."
Hicks, 23, is one of three clowns in Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth, which comes to the Toyota Center in Kennewick for five performances Oct. 3-5.
Hicks jokes that trying to get a job as a circus clown is probably harder than trying to get into Harvard.
"What circus clowns do today is a lot different than it used to be," he said. "We have a superhero story line that includes helping save members of other circus acts, with a lot of slapstick."
Hicks and his clown cronies keep the audience laughing with their wackiness as they bumble through trying to save an acrobat, for example, and failing miserably, he said.
Hicks, who grew up in North Carolina, has picked up all sorts of talents since joining the circus at age 19. He has been performing since age 9, first at church functions and then other community events.
He says there are plenty of new acts with the Ringling circus that he guarantees will delight all ages.
"Some of the newer acts are three Russian women contortionists who call themselves The Lightning Rods," he said. "They can do the most amazing things."
There also is a new acrobatic troupe known as the Shaolin Warriors who bring a new look to kung-fu fighting.
Another new attraction for the circus this year is a special interactive sensory tour for kids with vision impairments, called the Blind Touch Tour, said Dana Haynes, a circus spokeswoman.
"For the first time in Kennewick, (the Ringling Bros. circus) is inviting visually impaired children to experience the magic, excitement and wonder of The Greatest Show on Earth," Haynes said.
More than 15 local children and their families will be taken on a special hands-on sensory tour to experience the circus show. They will meet performers, touch the costumes, explore show props, sit in a Lyra hoop and feel some of the four-legged stars of the show, including a pony and Asian elephant.
That special tour will be at 10 a.m. Oct. 2.
The general public will also have a chance to get up close and personal with circus performers, try on costumes and see the animals. Admission to the preshow comes with a ticket to the circus.
Ringmaster David Shipman, 27, will keep the show moving along. Shipman is one of the youngest ringmasters in Ringling's history. He's also a former American Idol contestant and has guest starred on the TV series Vampire Diaries.
And if all that isn't enough action to lure you to the pseudo big top at the coliseum, then the Brave Banditos should do the trick. This troupe of tricksters, featuring the Lopez family, does some swashbuckling sword fighting on the high wire that may have the audience holding its breath.
The Cuban Comets are a team of thrilling acrobats that will have multiple people twisting and flipping several feet in the air. Then there's the fearless fire riders who race around inside a Globe of Steel.
And the Twin Titans give a whole new meaning to strength as they hang from straps high above the circus floor or stand in center ring, one holding the other in a prone position off the floor with one hand.
Performance times are 7 p.m. Oct. 3, 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 4, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Oct. 5.
Tickets range from $14 for opening night, and from $17 to $37 for all other performances. Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com or the Toyota Center box office. Tickets purchased at the box office avoid service charges.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal