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Elephants on 34th Street

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Just before midnight on March 22, midtown Manhattan will again witness New York's annual march of circus elephants. Several nights before the March 25 opening of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden, the massive Asian pachyderms make their way west along 34th Street after tramping though the Queens Midtown Tunnel. The tradition dates back to 1981 when the West Side rail yards could no longer accommodate the mile-long circus train due to redevelopment.

It's a memorable experience for many New Yorkers, though likely for different reasons. Animal activists sometimes use the event to protest the use of animals in the circus, while enthusiasts of all ages stand and await the wonder of seeing a chain of elephants, some clad in sequined banners, make their way through midtown Manhattan. That fleeting and unique event unfolds every year at about the same time in whatever weather Mother Nature has in store.

So, if you have a taste for the unusual and don't mind staying up late, line 34th Street for a chance to watch handlers lead Nichole and Kelly, Juliette and Karin, and Minyak and baby Sara through Manhattan in a chain of trunks and tails. They've even been known to do a little dance once they exit the tunnel, likely a cue from well-wishers, though take it as a reminder that you're never too old to enjoy the circus.

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Why? Because in New York we parade the unusual.
When: 11:30 PM -12:30 AM, March 22-23
Where: Along 34th Street to Madison Square Garden
Cost: Free
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