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Assistant Tent Master
Originally from Canada, Leclair quit college in 1983 and ran away with the circus. He's a master carpenter by trade, so the intricacies of raising and lowering the big top came naturally to him. Leclair worked with the Big Apple Circus for the 1989-90 season, but left to work for Cirque du Soleil, where he spent a decade. In 2000, Leclair returned to the Big Apple Circus, in part because he missed the communal living trailers where the BAC management, performers and staff reside during the tour. This season, Leclair keeps one eye on the sky at all times, looking for signs of inclement weather. When the tour lands the Big Apple Circus in Stone Mountain, Georgia, high winds threaten the integrity of the tents, and Leclair is challenged to keep the big top grounded and intact. After all, the show must always go on.
"I love raising the big top. I still get goose bumps every time. You get to an empty parking lot and within for or five hours, there is a little city. I love to see an empty place come alive."
Where is home?
"I'm from Canada, and I go there when I have vacation. Most people leave home for vacations, but I go home."
What do you worry about when it comes to the big top tent?
"The wind is the thing you have to look out for. We have these new tension-style tents that are rated for 110 miles per hour. These days, you have to be sure that the tent is tight. Is it safe for the audience? Is it safe for the trapeze guys? The tent can sway and everything moves."
How long does it take to set the circus up for business?
Two days before (the performers arrive to a new location on the tour), my crew came ahead and made sure all the stakes were in the ground. It takes between four to six hours, and the tent is up. Then the bleachers, lights and sound have to be loaded into the big top. Generally, the circus can be completely set up in two days. The third day is for details ... and then (rigging) inspections happen after that."
Meet Michael Leclair
When he’s not taking care of the Big Top, Michael Leclair can be found panning for gold.