Ponies, horses, dogs to entertain in Thomaston

Circus show to go on, but not in Rockland

By Stephen Betts | Jul 17, 2019
Source: Zerbini Family Circus Zerbini Family Circus

Rockland — The Zerbini Family Circus will hold two shows in Thomaston next week after the Rockland City Council nixed the plan for ponies, horses, dogs and clowns to perform in the city.

Thomaston Selectman Peter Lammert said Wednesday, July 17, that he acted quickly when he heard about the Tuesday evening decision by the City Council not to grant a permit.

The circus will set up on the grassy area to the north of the Lura Libby School, Lammert said. The shows will be July 24 and July 25 at 6 p.m.

There are people in Thomaston who purchased tickets for the planned Rockland circus performances, and Lammert said he did not want to disappoint those families. The selectman said he recalled 20 years ago how the Fire Department used to have circuses come to town every other year.

He said he has talked with two other selectmen, but was unable to contact the other one. He said no vote was required for the circus to use the town property.

The Rockland City Council voted 3-2 July 16 to deny a permit for Zerbini Family Circus to have two shows next week at Snow Marine Park. The decision came after two residents -- Callie Black and Kendall Merriam -- voiced concerns about the treatment of animals.

The Harbor Management Commission had recommended Jan. 15 that the circus be allowed to use the South End waterfront park for July 24 and July 25.

City Manager Tom Luttrell acknowledged at the July 16 meeting that the application had fallen through the cracks and said a new system would be put in place so that it would not happen again, resulting in the City Counci'sl only getting the permit request the week prior to the scheduled dates.

Councilor Amelia Magjik said she was surprised by the request with no advance notice. Magjik said she was going to listen to the concerns of the residents who spoke.

Councilor Ed Glaser said while he agreed that the time for circuses that use animals should be over, he has researched the Zerbini Family Circus' record and found no violations of animal rights. "If we're going to have a circus, this is one of the better ones," Glaser said.

Councilors Valli Geiger, Ben Dorr and Magjik voted against granting the permit. Mayor Lisa Westkaemper and Glaser voted for the permit.

The circus had been advertising the two performances that it had planned for the city. The circus has been in Massachusetts and has planned Maine performances for Phippsburg July 18, Cumberland July 19, Minot July 20, Bridgton July 21, and Wiscasset July 23 before the two now-canceled appearances in Rockland that have been moved to Thomaston.

The circus has not responded to a telephone or Facebook message sent Tuesday evening, but issued a statement Wednesday morning on its Facebook page prior to the announcement of the move to Thomaston.

"We want to fight this and we need your help. We ask that you contact your city representatives and let them know that you want the circus to perform in Rockland. Don’t let two people decide what kind of entertainment you can enjoy, They didn’t even give us the option to perform in Rockland last-minute without any animals in the performance. The only animals that we have in the show are ponies, dogs and miniature donkeys and we can assure you that they are loved and well taken care of, they are a part of our family," the company said.

Comments (32)
Posted by: CATHY TRUEMAN | Jul 21, 2019 19:53

It sounds like it would have behooved Callie Black and Kendall Merriam to better research the circus and make sure they had the right one when making allegations.  Pathetic that the City Council did this without even giving the owners of the circus a chance to defend themselves.  Since the circus owners had been led to believe they were all set, had advertised and were set to go in Rockland, I imagine nobody was more shocked than them when it fell apart. Luckily Thomaston swooped in and saved the day, because I suspect that the circus would have had a pretty strong lawsuit for the loss of income had it not been moved.  Once again shaking my head at the decision making of the people who are supposed to be in charge.

Posted by: Susan Harriman | Jul 21, 2019 06:43

Can I get 3 cheers for the Rockland Harborclown! I bet he’s had a really busy last 9 months... and children was not on his mind, except the ice rink...was that him involved in that? or..

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Jul 18, 2019 22:21

From a simple circus to gay rights and child labor. Okkkk.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jul 18, 2019 15:37

We do have the best "clowns" in Rocklandia, sitting at the forefront of our lives, stepping in poo all the time and it truly does stink. Oh, well another day of disappointments spewing from the fire and brimstone mouths of the council.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jul 18, 2019 09:34

"A dog and pony show"  Thank you that made me smile.  How true it seems lately the actions of the Rockland City council are the "best show in town" .  If you read todays other great story how the planning board affirmed John Roots decision on re-entry house. My other comment will be quite similar to this one.  Why is it that the council feels they just need to "micro-manage" the city.  This circus was already issued a permit to conduct two performances.  We have city departments, boards and committees to handle this business.  It is not the job of council to second guess everyone else's decision.  Now once again our loss is Thomaston's gain.  Question ?  if I gather two others and confront the council about the cruelty afflicted on lobsters as they are drowned in boiling water, can I get the Lobster Festival's permit revoked a week before the show??

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jul 17, 2019 22:09


Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jul 17, 2019 22:08

Is this a good time to talk about cruse ships and the fact that Carnival Cruise admitting to dumping plastic waste in the Bahamas and was fined $20,000,000.00   (TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS) In 2017 the paid a fine of $40,000,000.00 (FORTY MILLION DOLLARS) for trying to cover up  dumping plastic wast, not accurately recording waste disposals, creating false waste records, and sending crews to temporarily fix environmental violations before they could be inspected.


Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jul 17, 2019 21:56

Stupid is as Stupid does. Rocklandia is so "broken" the left hand has no idea where the right hand is going in every aspect, pot holes to entertainment.

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Jul 17, 2019 20:10

Ms. Fitzgerald, the City Council did not have the permit application in January. The Harbor Management Commission had the application and approved the use. The city ordinance requires approval by the City Council as well. The City Council did not get the application until the past week.

Posted by: Linda S Rowling | Jul 17, 2019 19:36

Why hasn't anyone mentioned disappointed kids, or is this just a "grownup issue".

Posted by: Harry Fitzgerald | Jul 17, 2019 17:50

Amy Files, if you re-read the original article, the Rockland City Council had this before them by the Harbormaster on January 15. They "misplaced" it until last week. They approved the permit then. Then complaints from 2 people, two! caused them to cancel the permit. Thanks to Thomaston for stepping up.

Posted by Nancy Fitzgerald.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jul 17, 2019 17:33

" Dogs (and their handlers) who are chosen for the quirky competition might be asked to navigate an obstacle course on a tippy dock, clamber in and out of a dinghy, or fetch objects from the water. Either dog or owner must end the segment completely soaked."


Posted by: Ed Allen | Jul 17, 2019 16:08


Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jul 17, 2019 15:21

Now cancel the dog trials at the Boats and Home show held at the public landing and I will stop wondering about the hypocrisy of the whole thing.

Posted by: Amy Files | Jul 17, 2019 15:04

It sounds like a lot of people are blaming Council about something that they had no control over -- in regards to the last-minute nature of the vote. It is not Council's fault that they were faced with the decision when they were, and a decision about the permit needed to be made when it came before them.

In regards to circuses and animal rights. There was a time in our country when we thought it was okay to use child labor in our factories. There was also a time in our country when there were no animal rights at all and you could abuse a cat or dog with no repercussions. The federal Animal Welfare Act was only enacted about 60 years ago.

Times change and sometimes it takes our country—or parts of our country—a little while to accept newer ideas and values.

26 Countries have already banned the use of wild animals in circus acts. Keeping animals caged for our entertainment is no longer considered just or how we, as humans, should responsibly care for the creatures that depend on us for care and good treatment.

But public opinion can take a while to catch up. Think about Maine and LGBTQ rights. When Maine first had the opportunity to allow people, regardless of sex, the right-to-marry — it was rejected by referendum. Only a few years later, people's opinions expanded and embraced different values and that right was passed. Now most of us don't give it a second thought.

Sometimes good leadership requires stepping up to defend the minority against the majority. So if two people complain about an action or issue that is unjust in an attempt to protect people or beings that are vulnerable or unable to protect themselves, then I would hope that Council would listen to those two people, even if it is an unpopular decision.

The idea that animals shouldn't be kept for entertainment is new to me as well -- but when I look at my dog and think how he would feel being kept only to perform tricks, in a cage, and let out only when surrounded by a loud cheering crowd or audience -- that puts things in perspective for me.

Posted by: Lee H. Marshall | Jul 17, 2019 14:23

How do you lose a permit for such a large event as this, then only a week before the event, find then refuse the permit? This is truly shameful and Rockland should eat some crow and allow this event, considering the circus this has become.

At least there are two counselors who voted to approve this event. I imagine there will be repercussions if the circus is not allowed.


Lee D. Marshall

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jul 17, 2019 14:09

Instead of waxing nostalgic about about circuses in your childhoods, it would serve the circus animals better if you researched the animal abuse complaints against the Zerbini Circus and also bothered to attend city council meetings once in awhile to find out what's going on in Rockland. The council cannot be criticized for their decision when the circus permit request was only brought to their attention last night by the city manager, without any advance notice to the council. The American Humane Society is a legitimate organization that protects animals. The large ciruses in America today are no longer using (exploiting) animals. Times have changed toward enlightenment around the use/misuse of animals for the entertainment of humans.

-Phyllis Merriam

Posted by: Dorothy Liberty | Jul 17, 2019 13:35

I believe this cancellation happened to quickly without little research.

“Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen and Children of all ages.”  I am now 81 years of age and would love to hear that spoken one more time.

Posted by: AL MCALISTER | Jul 17, 2019 13:33

Stephen: Good call

Francis: They certainly are a circus

George: Completely off track as usual. The last 5 words of your comment summarize your entire comment.

James: Not a bad idea.

Richard: Right on!

Melissa: So many agree with you!

Harry: It's becoming the norm in Rockland. Well said though!

Jeff: I would lay this particular one at the council's feet. Betts gets a pass on this one in my opinion.

Kathryn: Well said. Clearly an unbiased assessment of the situation.

I have lived in Rockland for 20 years and the current council is the worst by far. Some of the members are leaning so far left they're about to hit us on the right. The people of Rockland are not being represented as they should be. Some of the council members (everybody knows who) are pushing their own thoughts, personal beliefs and agendas on to everybody and then claim they are "for the people". My honest opinion is that the city should hire a peanut vendor and we can come watch the biggest circus the city will ever have right up in the council chambers. Maybe the council can use the proceeds of the peanut sales on unneeded expenses and use the peanut shells to fill in the potholes. Just an idea. Maybe if one more person agrees with me we can get this to happen. It only takes two!

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 17, 2019 13:32

I attended Barnum and Baily circus as a child in What is the Boston, Mass. I was thrilled! I saw animals that I would never see again. I am 84 years young and it did not hurt me a bit. What is this fuss about anyway? Just curious...

Mary "Mickey" (Brown) McKeever  +::0)  ......

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Jul 17, 2019 13:24

The circus' web site shows photographs of camels although the company said it will not have any for its planned Rockland performances. And Jeff Sukeforth, I did not write this story to get the "folks stirred up." I reported on what our local government did, plain and simple.

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Jul 17, 2019 12:08

The original article said the circus had a camel which is rather a large animal to be held in captivity.  The owners say in this article it is ponies, dogs and miniature donkeys which are more manageable and may not be treated unlike animals on our local farms.  The first article said that this circus had no history of mistreatment to its animals.  That is what is important to me.  To refuse permission so close to the opening has got to be a blow to the circus and probably endangers its financial stability which in turn can endanger the animals and employees.  I am surprised why permission was not sought before the plan to come was in place. Perhaps the Zerbinis were led to believe they were welcome.  Unless there are other valid reasons not to allow them, I hope the Council reverses its decision.  Circus have come under attack for the large animals that have been mistreated.  It does not mean that all circuses are bad.

Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Jul 17, 2019 12:03

Not that I was attending but never pass up an opportunity like this, but also wonder if this is another writing piece by Betts to get the folks stirred up.  Two people should not be able to cause a board to change its mind like this. This shows no common sense on the part of the board. How about making due diligence and first off not lose an application "through the cracks" pitiful excuse and 2nd how about a little research on the circus itself. Not a hard thing to do to see if there have been proven allegations of abuse against animals. To allow two residents to ruin a good time for a lot of folks in beyond imaginable.  A simple question to the board, if 2 people come forward, i.e, PETA, to complain about boiling lobsters this year will you cancel the lobster festival in the same way?  I guess we will wait and see your course of action becuase you know this will happen once this word gets out.


Posted by: Harry Fitzgerald | Jul 17, 2019 11:41

Two people complained? Two? Is that all it takes out of a population of 7000 people to stop something from happening? If two people don't like it, then don't go to the show and let the other 6998 people do what they want. Pretty sad when two people decide for the thousands. Also pretty sad that the majority of the city council, who represent us all, listened to those two people and didn't use any common sense about this issue. Not surprised. It is not the fault of the circus people that the city council let this fall through the cracks until last week.

Posted by Nancy Fitzgerald

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jul 17, 2019 10:41

Wake up, city council, NOW!! I am usually supportive, yet cannot be on this decision. I was planning on attending myself since some of my fondest memories of youth were attending Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus and the World of Mirth; that came in by train.

Posted by: Melissa Byer | Jul 17, 2019 09:55

Change only happens when people step up and vote them out.  It is time!!!!!

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jul 17, 2019 09:15

Am I reading "The Onion"?  Come on RSU 13 Make this happen!!

Posted by: James M. Jillson | Jul 17, 2019 09:07


Maybe RSU 13 will step up and let the circus use the ball field on Thomaston St. just a thought

Posted by: George Terrien | Jul 17, 2019 08:55

There are lots of ways for citizens of a community to demonstrate that they do not want to provide a big tent, one that can accommodate diversity and rejuvenation (read: more young people).  If animal abuse has been a problem with the Zerbini family circus, cannot Rockland's law enforcement address cruelty?  Or once an abuser, always an abuser?  Sounds slightly like reactions to allowing ex-convicts in the City, or those suffering from drug addiction.  We could, of course, ban aging people (not that, as Mark Twain put it, any of us are going the other way), and so increase the portion of young people among us.

Crazy ideas?  Of course--that's why we have a Council responsible for considering issues carefully, and exercising sound judgment, ahead of time, so that last-minute decisions do not prompt stupid comments like this one.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jul 17, 2019 07:17

Afterthought ! Maybe the Council wants to be the only circus in town.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jul 17, 2019 07:15

It's okay to be unkind to a sea goddess.

Posted by: Stephen B Adams | Jul 17, 2019 07:01

If that's the way the council feels they should cancel the Lobster festival  also.

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