NANTICOKE — You might think Viola, Kelley and Nina have a weight problem. After all, they do weigh 10,360, 8,940 and 5,900 pounds, respectively.
But for these three circus elephants, watching their weight is just a lot of hay — some 350 pounds of it per day.
The three elephants, trained and cared for by Chip and Dallas Arthurs of Decatur, Ala., will perform in next week’s 64th Irem Shrine Circus at the 109th Field Artillery Armory on Market Street.
On Friday the three female elephants were brought to J.P. Mascaro & Sons in Nanticoke to be weighed. Chip Arthurs likes to keep track of their weights to assess their health, he said.
“Those numbers are about what I expected,” Arthurs said following the weigh-in. “I’ve had them for more than 30 years, and they are all good girls.”
Viola is 42 years old, Kelley is 43 and Nina is 51. The average life expectancy of an elephant is about 70 years.
When you weigh thousands of pounds, you might feel a little uncomfortable stepping on a scale before a crowd. But when Viola, Kelley and Nina took their turns walking onto the Mascaro & Sons in-ground scale, they appeared content, and the gathering of adults and children fed their egos and appetites with carrots.
Each of the elephants waited as several children approached with the large carrots in hand to feed their new friends.
Lindsey Hartzell of Shickshinny brought her daughter, Alaina, 10, and niece, Jasmyne, to see the elephants up close.
“They’re pretty cool,” Alaina said. “Now I want one.”
She was surprised at how big the elephants were and how they listened when Arthurs called them by name.
“They’re so smart,” Jasmyne said. “And so cute. I liked how they posed for pictures.”
Viola was guided toward a J.P. Mascaro dump truck for a picture.
Mark Cesare, general manager, said the company has a blue elephant mascot — “Dumpo” — who acts as a spokes-elephant for the company’s “Respect” program that was developed for elementary school children. The program focuses on teaching children to respect themselves, their friends, parents, teachers, property, authority and the environment, Cesare said.
“We picked an elephant as our logo because of their strength and reliability,” Cesare said.
“Dumpo” wasn’t around Friday, Cesare said. The mascot might have been a little intimidated by the three big girls on site.
Big stars, big show
Hank Cordy and Noel Conrad, representing the Irem Shrine Circus, were on hand for the elephant weighing. Conrad, the circus chairman and a member at Irem for 27 years, said tickets sales have been good for the event.
“We’re looking forward to a great week,” Conrad said. “Andthese elephants are just a part of a great show.”
Arthurs said Viola, Kelley and Nina will welcome riders at every performance. They enjoy giving their young fans a ride around the Big Top, he said. Chris and Bobbi Jo Roe of Shickshinny said they hope to take their three children — Maggie, 3, and 2-year-old twins Abbey and Sami, to the circus. They stood in awe of the elephants as several people threw carrots to them after their weigh-in.
Jim McIntire of Forty Fort brought his granddaughter, Abby Konkus, 2, to see the elephants. She threw a big carrot and stepped back as Viola snatched it off the pavement.
“Wow, they sure are big,” McIntire said.