FAIR HILL — You may think your life is crazy at times, but for Georgina “Pom-Pom” Donoho and Vincent Von Duke, life is a a bonafide circus.
“When I met Vince, we were in a circus,” Donoho said on Sunday on a break from performing at the Cecil County Fair. “He was working with cats. I was working with elephants.”
Now married 27 years, the couple first brought “Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind” to the fair in 2006. They are back this year with their collection of big cats, including African lions and both Bengal and Siberian tigers.
The show features five of the big cats jumping over gates and through fire. Ahead of each performance, Donoho warms up the crowd by explaining that, while the animals have foreign bloodlines, all were born in captivity in the United States.
“We’ve got three babies in training,” she added.
According to Donoho, while their animals are much larger than a domestic house cat, a feline is a feline.
“We’ve been doing it so long that you can tell what they’re going to do before they do it,” she said.
As the tigers were brought out for a Saturday afternoon show, they nuzzled each other one moment, then reared up and slapped at each other the next.
“They’re just like house cats,” Donoho told the audience.
Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind offers several shows each day during the nine-day run of the fair. At the end, the public can line up and feed one of the big cats, using the same tool the couple uses to offer bits of raw meat as a reward during the performances.
The couple calls Sarasota, Fla., home, where Donoho also operates a petting zoo. While traveling from one venue to the next, she said the animals are usually sleeping, but sometimes a growl or a snarl will pique public interest when they stop to refuel.
“We try to stay incognito ... but once in a while they spot that they’re there,” she said.
She’s been performing since she was 8, so traveling with animals and interacting with the public is second nature. Donoho is not the only family member still performing in the circuit.
“My younger sister is Galaxy Girl,” she said.
Fans of the fair will recall that woman as the one who performed acrobatics from the top of a 127-foot tower in 2005.