By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The founder of a circus with mostly African-American performers and audience learned showmanship growing up in Baltimore, helping out selling fruits and vegetables off an arabber’s cart.

Now, as Mike Schuh reports, the UniverSoul Circus is back in town for its 23rd season.

It’s the circus that still travels from town to town with an authentic big top. It’s a high-energy show, one where the crowd is part of the act. Most of the performers are African-American; most of the patrons are, as well.

Twenty-three years ago, the UniverSoul Circus started because owner Cedric Walker felt those on both sides of the stage were being overlooked.

“Well, for one thing, soul is not a color. Soul is an experience. That’s one thing. Then we’ve got talent from all over the world. We’ve got talent from China, we have talent from Africa, even during our other days, we’ve had talent from Russia. So color is not a barrier,” said Walker.

The mix of performers has Lanelle Beale glad she planned a surprise for her six-year-old daughter Logan and her eight-year-old niece.

“Just get ready by a certain time, we’re getting out of the house by a certain time,” Lanelle Beale said. “Because I’m taking you somewhere you have no idea where you’re going.”

“When we were around the corner from here and I saw the tents and I said, `I think we’re going to the circus,’ and then she said, `Yep, we’re going to the circus,'” said Logan.

Logan later said she was so happy, she cried.

Someone else filled with joy is DJ Queen HD. She’s been asked back to DJ in between acts.

“They always do the dance songs for the kids or they play throwbacks for the adults to get everybody dancing. They get the crowds involved by bringing people from the crowd to the stage,” said D.J. Queen HD. “It’s just real exciting to get the crowd involved, and I enjoy that part.”

The circus is in the parking lot of the Security Square Mall and has 20 more performances. It runs until June 20; tickets are $18-33.

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