SUISUN CITY — Showtime was about 25 minutes away. Raul Castano sat in a chair outside his motor home as the Suisun breezes blew over the landscape.
On his lap were a mirror, towel, moisturizer, cosmetic sponge, baby powder and clown makeup. With 37 years of experience, the transformation from man to clown happened in about five minutes.
First, the moisturizer. Then, a hefty dose of the baby powder, taken face-first.
His light complexion began to take on a reddish hue. Then his lips were painted white.
Black makeup was placed on his eyebrows and in the corners of his mouth.
Then it was time to brush his dog Cookie, who would perform with him under the Ramos Bros. Circus big top near Highway 12 and Marina Boulevard.
When it was their turn to entertain, both made their way through the dark backstage area of the circus tent into the ring under the spotlight.
The crowd laughed as Cookie stole something when Castano was not looking. Castano would blame a member of the audience.
Cookie always managed to get the item, and herself, inside a big wicker basket and couldn’t be seen.
The Ramos Bros. Circus is in Suisun City until Monday. While the mobile homes and trailers are circled around the big tent, what goes on behind the big red-and-white tent remains out of the public’s view.
While some seats are just a few feet within the backstage area, a black curtain and minimal light offer no glimpse of the acrobats warming up, the staff blowing up balloons and the crew moving items and animals.
Before and during each show, the performers and crew are in constant motion.
Alex Ramos, one of the three Ramos brothers who operate the circus, helped his wife Sylvia Ramos wash down some of the animals before the Wednesday evening show. Ninety minutes later, he was dressed to the nines, working with a pair of camels and two llamas in the center of the big top.
Everyone knows their job. Some do more than one job.
“You learn everything,” Ramos said. He’s been a clown, juggler and contortionist, among other jobs.
The show features 17 performers and a staff of 60 people, most who travel from city to city with the circus.
Setting up the big tent takes about 40 hours with 40 people, Ramos said. Taking it down takes about half that amount of time.
Running a circus has been a tradition in the Ramos family for five generations. The third generation, of which Alex Ramos is a member, came to the United States in 1983 to work for the Carson and Barnes Circus.
In 2005, they opened their own circus on the West Coast. Performances are in California, Nevada and Arizona. Home is Las Vegas for the two months of the year the circus is not traveling.
The stop in Suisun City is raising money for the city’s Community Services Foundation, something Alex Ramos would like to do at every stop, he said.
“The Ramos Bros. Circus wants to be part of the community,” he said.
The goal, he said, is just to put a smile on a child’s face.
The Ramos Bros. Circus is ending a 13-day run in Suisun City. Remaining performances are at 2, 5 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Monday. It is at the corner of Marina Boulevard and Highway 12.
For more information, call 877-726-6705 or visit www.ramoscircus.com.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.