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William Tell has nothing on Marti Peltonen. Peltonen, a world-renowned archer who will bring his crossbow skills to Fayetteville Feb. 12-15 as part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, does the old apple splitting trick all right— though he takes it up a notch ... or rather, eight notches.
   “For the climax of my act I arrange eight crossbows around the ring and stand against a pole with an apple on top of my head,” said Peltonen. “I shoot the first crossbow, which triggers all the others and sets off a chain reaction that causes the final crossbow bolt to fly across the ring and split the apple.”
   Leading up to the climactic goring of a Golden Delicious, Peltonen shows off more “mundane” displays of skills, such as cutting the stem of a rose held in his wife’s hand from 20 feet away, and shooting a playing card held between her fingers ... performing the latter with his back turned to the target, using a mirror to guide his aim.
   Not only would it be a tragedy for Peltonen if he one day missed and injured his lovely wife, Liina Aunola, it it would be a blow to the circus, as Aunola serves double duty as both Peltonen’s assistant and is a star in her own right: she is employed as an aerialist with the circus.
   “I don’t get nervous when I work with Liina,” said Peltonen. “If I ever felt nervous I would not step into the ring.”
   Both Peltonen and Aunola grew up in Finland. As a boy, Peltonen practiced archery as a hobby. The hobby became his vocation when he joined the Finnish army in 1997, where he excelled in both marksmanship and explosives.
   After leaving the army, Peltonen worked for a while in demolition, though soon became bored with blowing things up. In 2000, Peltonen decided to realize a lifelong dream of millions before him by running away to join the circus — the Sirkus Finlandia.
   He didn’t become a headlining archer right away — in fact, it took six years of training before he was ready to step into the ring on his own. Along the way he met his future wife and performing partner, Liina, who had joined the circus’s youth program despite a decided lack of playground prowess.
   “I was lousy in sports in elementary school, but I still ended up in a very athletic profession,” said Liina, who joined Sirkus Finlandia at the ridiculously young age of 11.
   Years of performing at death-defying and dizzying heights while tethered precariously to a thin rope has honed Liina’s body for her aerial acrobatics; likewise, a strict regimen of training has prepared her husband to take both their lives into his hands when he steps into the ring with crossbow cocked.
   “It’s constant work,” said Peltonen. “I rarely have time to practice because I’m too busy working. So far this year we’ve been to 23 states and traveled more than 23,000 miles ... I get my practice in the ring.”
    And while Peltonen says he never gets nervous, he adds the same is not true for the audience.
   “Right before the climax, before I shoot the apple off my head, the room usually gets incredibly quiet,” said Peltonen. “I live for that moment of complete and utter silence ... It is an awesome, awesome moment.”


The Greatest Show On Earth

   It may not be the three-ring variety, but the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is still the “greatest show on Earth.”
   The world’s most famous circus — rechristened BOOM A RING — rolls into the Crown Coliseum Feb. 12-15, confining its action into one ring to provide a more compact, cost-effective product to the thrill-seeking public.
   Don’t worry though, while it’s one ring rather than three, the action is just as fast, furious and frenetic as you remember. It’s also much more intimate — circus-goers will enjoy an up-close and personal experience as they sit feet away from white tigers, majestic Asian elephants and acrobats from around the world.
In addition to the crossbow wizardy of Marti Peltonen, featured acts include: Los Scolas in a gravity-defying performance on the whirling Wheel of Steel; Vicenta Pages, one of the world’s youngest performing tiger trainers, demonstrates the bond she shares with her rare white-striped Bengal tigers in a display of acrobatic jumps, balancing and even a high-five; Patti Zerbini performs alongside Asian elephants; and the Vedyashkina family presents a delightful Daschund dog act.
   One of the best things about the BOOM A RING format is it allows for an all-access pre-show, which starts an hour before show time and allows the audience to meet and get to know the performers personally.
   The performance schedule is: Thursday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 14, 3-7 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.
   Tickets start at $15.50 and are on sale now and available through http://www.Ringling.com, Ticketmaster or the Crown Coliseum box office. Contact the Crown at 438-4100 or visit its Web site at www.crowncoliseum.com.

Contact Tim Wilkins at tim@upandcomingweekly.com



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