circus girl on elephant
LRHS senior Michelle Carden rides a circus elephant

Hayes DuJardin and Rachel Lamoureaux – Mustangs Ahead

(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL) – Every LRHS student at the Ranch has a unique story, a background that made that person an individual. Few, however, can match LRHS senior Michelle Carden when it comes to unusual family settings.

Carden’s family, which has Italian roots, has been in the circus business for nine generations, and all that are born into the family are expected to be in it as well. From birth she was trained for circus acts, from being stretched to being taught how to hang from bars for extended periods of time. She was even raised with a monkey, Gerald, who she said was “like (her) brother.”

As she grew up, she found out how large of a commitment she was born into. Every school year she would leave for the entirety of the second semester, as she went to tour with the circus. As she grew, she realized this lifestyle wasn’t for her.

In her freshman year, Michelle decided she didn’t want to be a circus performer when she grew up. She wanted to go to school full time, attend college and eventually be an accountant. However, this decision broke a family chain of tradtion.

Even though she stopped doing circus business full-time, Michelle’s family still must leave for four months a year, which leaves her to support herself.

“It can be really hard,” she said, “but I’ve gotten mostly used to it.”

Once the school year ends and summer begins, Michelle still performs in the circus. She goes to Canada all summer, where her mother owns a circus. There, she does such acts as acrobatics, riding horses, and riding bikes around a big metal ring. She also works with animals, as she was raised around zebras, elephants, camels, and horses.

Carden said her biggest complaint is how some people mistake circus performers for carnival wrokers.

“People always think that we’re the same as carnies!” she said.  “That’s my biggest pet peeve.”

Carden is very excited to close out her senior year, and of all the possibilities that lie ahead of her.

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