SARATOGA SPRINGS - It's not every day that elephants walk the streets of Saratoga Springs.
So the sight Monday of Minnie, a 28-year-old Asian elephant, and Karen, a 19-year-old African elephant, lumbering across Maple Avenue had pedestrians stopped in their tracks and drivers gawking from behind their windshields.
One woman sat in her sport utility vehicle and stared open-mouthed, her finger pointing in disbelief, as the two elephants, linked from tail to trunk, crossed the road directly in front of her.
The elephants had just received a quick bath from a hose in a small lot directly behind the City Center. After the bath, the two were heading back to the trailer where they're staying - in the municipal parking lot across the street.
"It's like a family," said Joe Barney, owner of Center Ring Productions, as handlers Tim and Bill Commerford spoke to the elephants, asking them to back up and lift their feet during their bath.
The elephants complied with these requests.
"It's like talking to a dog," Barney said, as some bystanders reached out to pat Karen's rough, hairy trunk and others, their curiosity getting the better of them, stepped closer to Minnie and got a face full of wet dirt from the elephant's trunk.
The elephants are visiting the city for the Saratoga Circus Spectacular, a one-ring circus produced by Center Ring Productions. The circus obtains all of its animals - including the two elephants, 10 ponies and several camels, pigeons, parrots and dogs - through a contract with R.W. Commerford and Sons Inc. of Goshen, Conn., officials said.
The one-ring show is part of the Clowns of American International Convention that runs today through Sunday at the City Center. The convention is hosted by Electric City Clowns Alley, a group of about 50 clowns from the Capital Region and North Country along with a few from Massachusetts.
The circus will be set up inside the City Center. In addition to the animals, it will feature an aerialist, jugglers, the Amazing Altier Archers and daredevils called the Nerveless Nocks. Elephant, camel and pony rides also will be offered for an extra charge.
And what would a circus be - especially one being held at a clown convention - without some clowns?
Showing for the circus crowd will be Chris and Gina Allison, the clown team known as Boss Clown, from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Eric Zander from Circus Circus in Las Vegas.
Those attending the clown convention will be given a free pass to the circus.
This is the first time the clown convention has been held in Saratoga Springs. The convention features workshops, classes and seminars on clowning. It is open to the public, and people can register at the door.