Not everyone is excited about the circus coming to Old Spanish Trail Park.
For 10 years, the Loomis Bros. Circus has set up their big tops in Crestview. But this year, they will be met with some protest signs.
Linda Laverne was upset last month when she received a flyer for the circus in her mailbox.
"I live not far from the show site," Laverne said. "I can hear the ringmaster practically word for word. I am very opposed to animals in the circus and I don't think there needs to be any explanation of that. These circuses are a thing of the past."
Motivated to act, Laverne contacted PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Nov. 2. The next morning, she was talking to a representative who sent out posters, signs and created a Facebook event page for the protest.
"Every animal from the dogs to the elephants...the circuses are exploiting them," Laverne said. "Those animals feel pain, they feel love just like we do. I want to educate people and take their blinders off."
Laverne plans to hand out flyers at nearby business and protest the circus at the corner of Stillwell Boulevard and Valley Road, weather permitting. Some friends and business owners have contacted Laverne to get protest signs for their yard or store windows.
Laverne said she's not an activist. In fact, when her children were younger she happily took them to circuses.
"I never thought twice about it," she said. "Then one year, I asked my daughter if I could take my granddaughter to the circus and she said no."
Almost two years as a vegan, Laverne said she's become aware — and upset — by the inhumane treatment of animals both for entertainment and consumption.
In an email to the Crestview News Bulletin, a PETA spokesperson alleged that the Franzen Bros. Circus, which leases and trains the animals for the Loomis Bros. Circus, has been cited numerous times by the USDA for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
Justin Loomis, owner of Loomis Bros. Circus, said the allegations are false.
"It's basically fake news," he said. "We've never been in trouble."
The Loomis Bros. event is a 20-year-old circus based out of Sumter County, Florida. The circus business has been in the Loomis family for three generations.
It's true that circuses have faced a decline over the years due to protests over animal rights. In 2015, Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey retired elephants from its show. In 2017, the circus closed altogether after 146 years.
Locally, Santa Rosa Mall ended its relationship with Cole Bros. Circus in November 2015 after complaints from PETA. The circus had been setting up its red and yellow big top at the mall for at least 20 years.
"Animals are not ours to use for entertainment," said PETA spokesman Dan Carron. "It's unnatural and unnecessary."
Loomis said the circus can't afford to retire its animals. Oftentimes, they're the draw.
"Retiring the elephants was their (the Ringling Bros.) demise," he said. "I don't want that to happen to us. The elephant is our mainstay feature...I wouldn't stand for animal abuse."
As for the protests, Loomis said he's not concerned that it will affect attendance.
"We have great attendance at most shows," he said. "I'm not against the protest. That's freedom of speech. I think people should come and see it for themselves."
As for Laverne, she's never protested before, but she went out to buy wooden stakes for her signs. It doesn't matter if anyone stands out there with her.
"It's not something I've ever done," she said.
"I just know I couldn't listen to the ringmaster one more year and know I didn't do anything."