MANSON It only takes a few minutes. As spectators look on, a huge white and blue tarp lying on the ground begins to take shape. With many hands and some heavy equipment, the side poles are put into place forming the front of the tent. Then, one of the two central poles is attached to a bobcat and shoved into place, raising the pinnacle of the big top high into the sky.

As each high point went up Monday morning, the crowd of mostly kids and parents let out a cheer.

Though most of the excitement comes at the evening shows, in each town it visits the Culpepper Merriweather Circus invites families out in the mornings to watch the big top raising.