Ringling’s Big Top is raised in Coney!

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The “oohs” and “aahs” began Friday as 20 workers wielded their sledgehammers, driving the first stakes into the ground and alerting Coney beach-goers that the Greatest Show on Earth is almost here!

Assisted by hired help from the neighborhood, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey workers assembled and primped the famous blue and gold Big Top for its June 17 opening in front of curious gawkers, who watched the brawny bunch employ plenty of elbow grease to raise the marquee for The Coney Island Illuscination in the same spot where it kicked off its successful inaugural run last year — Surf Avenue and West 21st Street.

“Although it’s not complicated work, it’s very labor intensive so that the tent can withstand the elements,” said Stephen Yaros, vice president of Event, Marketing and Sales for Feld Entertainment which produces the spectacle.

Not sew easy work for the capable crew!

Workers did most of the graft by hand, even stitching pieces of the tent together so water wouldn’t seep in. Motors were used to hoist the tent, which was then stabilized with poles inserted by hand. After that, other infrastructural aspects, such as seat assembly and light installation, were meticulously put into place so that the show will go on as planned.

Yaros said that last year, the tents did “an amazing job” of standing up to some fierce storms — a testament to the sound job the working stiffs did in meeting the strict engineering specifications of the city and state Departments of Buildings, he noted.

In addition to the performance tent and a foyer tent — both borrowed from Great Britain — workers also erected a hospitality marquee for large groups.

If Mother Nature cooperates, said Yaros, the tents will be in place as you read this — one week before the performers arrive, and the pre-show fanfare begins.

“They’re racing to get to that date!” he said.

— Shavana Abruzzo

Updated 2:20 pm, October 19, 2011
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