America Supports You Comes to Town With the Circus
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
ATLANTA, Feb. 12, 2006 Support for the nation's men and women in uniform took center stage as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus opened the Atlanta portion of its tour Feb. 10.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus clowns hold a banner that displays the America Supports You and circus logos during a performance in Atlanta Feb. 10. Ringling became an America Supports You corporate team member in December and has since mentioned the program during every show. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I'd like to thank Ringling Brothers for joining the America Supports You team," Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said at the show, with performers holding an "America Supports You" banner beside her. "If you're here tonight and you're in the military, I want to say, 'Thanks for your service,' and I want you to know America supports you."
And Barber directed the audience members who wanted to help the nation's men and women in the military to the Web site for America Supports You, a Defense Department outreach program designed to recognize citizens' support for servicemembers and their families.
Ringling became an America Supports You corporate team member in December, and will officially announce the membership in March when the circus comes to Washington, a program official said.
Over the years, Ringling has frequently saluted the troops, said Brad Bryant, vice president for southeastern U.S. field marketing and sales at Feld Entertainment, Ringling's owner.
Bryant had a grander vision though: "I said, 'We need to put all these (salutes and honors) together and just have the program so it's not somebody's doing it in (Los Angeles), but not in San Francisco. Let's do something everywhere we go.'"
The idea came to fruition when he approached a former servicemember whose last assignment was at the Pentagon.
"I enlisted the help of a retired Air Force colonel, Bob Swaney," Bryant said. "I said, 'You've got to help me get in to the right people so we can make this program really benefit those in the armed forces.'" Swaney directed him to Barber and America Supports You.
"We are grateful for the support that Ringling Brothers gives our military members and their families, especially their children," Barber said. "This initiative helps demonstrate to our military men and women strong homefront support, which is so important to them and their loved ones."
Bryant has worked with Feld's Ringling arm for 18 years. He's also served four years as a captain in the Georgia State Defense Force, a legitimate, state recognized militia, and said he knows how important it is for troops and their families to have a chance to relax and laugh for a night.
Currently ringmasters tell the audience about America Supports You and the circus' partnership at the beginning of each performance, Bryant said. And Ringling is currently working on ways to make America Supports You more prominent during performances, including banners displayed throughout the show, he noted.
"I would say right now ... in all the circuses we've played since we (joined ASY), at least 300,000 people have seen the ASY announcement and heard it, just by coming to every single show that we do," Bryant said. "(We just want) to get the word out. This is a great program."
The circus also offers anyone holding a DoD identification card a 50 percent discount on admission for opening night performances, he said. And that's on top of the 50 percent discount everyone already gets on opening night. That means DoD-card carriers pay 25 percent of the ticket price.