2011-12-22 / Top News

BARNUM BASH

Family’s motorcycle act part of the three-ring fun at Ringling circus
BY SCOTT SIMMONS


Urias Family: Melvin Urias (left), Olga Surnina and Erwin Urias ride motorcycles in the globe, while Jodie Urias (rear) performs acrobatics. Urias Family: Melvin Urias (left), Olga Surnina and Erwin Urias ride motorcycles in the globe, while Jodie Urias (rear) performs acrobatics. ERWIN URIAS WAS BORN TO RIDE.

In a ball.

The stunt motorcyclist is a member of the fourth generation of his family to take to the clan’s famed Globe of Death.

And Florida audiences can see them when they appear in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Barnum Bash Dec. 27-31 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center and Jan. 6-8 at Germain Arena in Estero.

But back to Mr. Urias’ being born to ride.

“The first time I was on a motorcycle and in the globe, I was 6 months old,” he says by phone from Sarasota. “My dad strapped me on himself and we’d do a few turns through the globe. That was my first encounter.”

And he was hooked.

“I started riding motorcycles when I was 2 years old,” he says, adding, “Some kids, their parents want them to be athletes.”

Not this family.

The premise is simple: Mr. Urias, his brother Melvin and Melvin’s fiancée, Olga Surnina, race on motorcycles at speeds up to 60 mph inside a 16-foot steel sphere.

Erwin Urias’ wife, Jodie, an aerialist, stands in the middle of the globe as the motorcycles zip around her, just as his mom, Kathia, did with his father, Victor.

It’s a tradition the Urias’ great-grandfather Jose created nearly century ago, when he crafted the family’s original globe of heavy steel strapping and handpounded steel rivets to hold the straps together.

The family no longer uses that globe, built in 1912.

“Our globe is 100 years old. It has since been retired. A couple of museums would like to exhibit it,” Mr. Urias says.

But much of the family’s act has changed with the times.

So what can audiences expect?

“In the newest stunt they can see, we have one of the few females in the world who can ride (in the globe). Olga is an acrobat,” Mr. Urias says of his future sister-in-law. “People come out and see another motorcycle go inside, then she rips that helmet off. A girl can do anything a guy can do.”

And there are some things a girl can do that a guy can’t.

“We are doing an aerial stunt inside the globe. My wife is suspended by her neck revolving 360 degrees while the motorcycles are roaring around her,” Mr. Urias says. “It took a lot of time, patience and calculation. Normally, when the lady stands in the middle, you can see her. Now that she is above us, she is blind to us we can’t see her and she can’t see us.”

Everything hinges on that timing — if one of their souped-up 125cc Yamaha motorcycles were to stall, the entire cast would be in peril.

That makes them appreciate the vehicles all the more.

“We are also bringing the Orange County Chopper that was specifically made for Ringling Bros. For us it’s going to be exciting because we love that motorcycle,” he says. “We put all the time into our machinery, so it’s nice to appreciate something of that caliber.”

Actually, Mr. Urias says, it is nice to have time to do anything in addition to work.

“We travel about 10 months out of the year. The show tours from the end of December to the end of November. We take that break to come up with something new, something exciting,” he says. “So that next time Ringling comes to town, you’re seeing a whole new show, or different rendition from the last.”

Home base for the family is Sarasota, but one bonus to being the road is family time.

“From childhood on, I’ve always traveled with my parents, and as an adult, I travel with my wife and my children,” he says. The Uriases have an 11-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

The circus provides the children with day care and tutors while the family is the road.

But Mr. Urias says being on the road offers children lessons they cannot get in a classroom.

“I had an exceptional childhood, mostly because it was filled with phenomenal people,” he says. “I had the opportunity to learn different cultures, learn different languages.”

Travel aside, Mr. Urias says he is happy to entertain fellow Floridians.

“I love living here and it’s great to be able to do stuff in our own state,” he says. ¦

>> What: Barnum Bash in West Palm Beach >> When: 7 p.m. Dec. 27 and Dec. 28; 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 29 and Dec. 30; 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 31; and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Jan. 1. >> Where: Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. >> Cost: $50 (floor seats), $27 (lower riser seats) $20 (upper riser seats) >> Contact: 800-745-3000 or www.ringling.com

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