Big 'Boom'
Circus opens today at Arena at Gwinnett Center

DULUTH - Justin Case has traveled all over the world on his bicycle, and he'll ride into the Arena at Gwinnett Center today for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Boom A Ring.

Boom A Ring is Case's first show with Ringling, and he portrays a French character who interacts with the audience, almost like an audience member himself, he said, who wants to be a part of the circus.

"I appear off and on throughout the show, trying to help (the performers) out and be a part of the show in some way," said Case, a native of Australia.

"He's the classic bumbling fool who is always positive in his outlook," Case said of the character he portrays. "It's sort of like a metaphor for life, we all face troubles in life but we can still look at it with humor."

On his bicycle, Case performs head stands, hand stands and other acrobatic feats, with a few pyrotechnics thrown in the mix - "I like to say general stupidity on the bicycle, all the things that my mother said don't do, I get to do for a living," Case said.

The performer studied painting and print making before receiving a scholarship from the French government to attend the French National School of Circus, where he received a four-year degree in circus skills, which includes acrobatics, trampolining, clowning, acting and dance.

"I really didn't sort of get what I wanted from that," Case said of painting. "I discovered circus and just fell in love with it and suddenly realized it had all the theatrical elements I enjoyed and it needed a physical expression as well. It sort of married the

two things I enjoy in my life.

"I always blame my parents, actually, for my ending up in the circus because they didn't take me to see the circus as a child," Case added, advising parents to take their children to see the circus if they don't want their children to join.

"My little brother is a doctor," Case said, "and he saw the circus as a child."

High flying

Finland native Liina Aunola got her start in the circus at the age of 11.

"I was just looking for an exciting hobby, and I went to this kids' circus school," she said. "I just loved it from the start."

After seeing an aerial act, Aunola decided to try it herself - she'll perform on her aerial cloud swing during Boom A Ring, her first show with Ringling, as well as with her husband, Martti Peltonen, who does an act using crossbows and arrows.

"I really can't imagine anything else," Aunola said of being a circus performer. "I just love what I do and I hope that I have many years left."

Be a part of the circus

Case invites kids and their parents to come out an hour before the show to meet the circus performers, participate in various activities, such as tightrope walking and juggling, and try on costumes.

"It's almost like a family fair atmosphere," Case said of the pre-show, "kind of fun for the kids because they can get a hands-on experience of what they're going to see later."

For more information on Boom A Ring and to purchase tickets, visit www.gwinnettcenter.com.