Former National Guard Captain Now Rules Center Ring
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
ATLANTA, Feb. 17, 2006 Whether it was calling cadence as a South Carolina Army National Guardsman or participating in musical theater, Tyron McFarlan knew his life's passion.
Tyron McFarlan, a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ringmaster, leads the audience in the national anthem on the first night of the circus' Atlanta engagement Feb. 10. McFarlan is a former South Carolina Army National Guard captain. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I'm a firm believer in the fact that whatever is in you is ultimately going to find its way out of you," McFarlan said. "Whether it be in the military (or) whether it be in college, ... my passion to perform would always surface."
Two years ago, that passion led him to run away with the circus to become a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ringmaster.
But it was the military, not the circus, that captured his attention as a child. McFarlan's father retired from the South Carolina Guard as a chief warrant officer. That service affected McFarlan and his two sisters, he said. All three served, or are serving, with the South Carolina Guard. McFarlan put in 13 years before separating from the Guard as a captain.
He said he enlisted in 1987 and completed light-wheeled vehicle mechanic training while earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. During this time he was also a South Carolina motorcycle license examiner. That, he said, is when the circus first crossed his mind.
"Oftentimes I'd be road-testing an individual ... and I would look just a couple of feet away from me and see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey train," McFarlan said. "(I'd) always wondered what went on on the train. Now I know."
The ringmaster said he finds his military background useful in connecting the circus and its support of the nation's men and women in uniform.
In December, Ringling joined the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program, which recognizes citizens' efforts to support servicemembers. A Ringling official said that while Ringling has supported the troops for years, this membership consolidates efforts into one program.
McFarlan said he think it's great that the circus has become more involved. It helps "our circus fans to realize how important it is to support our troops in every way possible," he said on the circus' opening night here Feb. 10, when servicemembers received a 75 percent ticket discount.
"I think with the advent of a lot of things that are happening now with the military ... soldiers need that support," McFarlan said.