LEWISTON – In the center ring, Mercadeez Warner and Iman Osman giggled in the face of fear.
Sure, two Kora Shrine Circus elephants towered over them, all massive limbs and giant teeth. And sure, an older boy had just shied away from his own chance to pet the animals.
But with half of Longley Elementary School looking on, Mercadeez, a kindergartner, and Iman, a first-grader, reached out and skimmed their fingers over a rough, gray trunk. And laughed.
“It was cool. Scary,” Mercadeez said afterward, her eyes wide. “I want to feel them again!”
About 130 Longley kindergarten, first- and second-grade students gathered at The Colisee on Thursday for a once-in-a-lifetime field trip: Visit, and possibly touch, an Asian and African elephant.
The elephants, Cora and Shannon, are part of the Kora Shrine Circus, which appears at The Colisee today and Saturday. At several tons each, with wide ears and thick trunks, the animals loomed large.
“Elephants!” shouted Taheim Brimage, a first-grade boy, when Cora and Shannon lumbered into the arena. “Those are big. Yikes!”
For a half hour, trainer Bill Morris showed off the elephants, talking about their size (9,200 pounds for Cora), their age (23 for Shannon) and their eating habits (carrots are a favorite). He tickled Cora, who flapped her ears and trumpeted. He gave Shannon a pitcher of orange Kool-Aid – to the elephant’s delight – so the children could see how she uses her trunk to drink.
On Morris’ invitation, one boy strode bravely into the ring, but shied away after getting a closer look. Mercadeez and Iman touched Shannon’s trunk and gave her a toy trumpet to blow.
Circus officials hoped the visit would teach kids something about elephants.
Many of the kids said it did.
“Touching her was the best part,” Iman said. “I thought they were mean. They’re nice.”
The Kora Shrine Circus appears at The Colisee today at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Saturday at 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.