SHOWTIME: Ashton Circus performer Emma Avery demostrates the tight wire display at the Bangalow Showgrounds.
SHOWTIME: Ashton Circus performer Emma Avery demostrates the tight wire display at the Bangalow Showgrounds. Marc Stapelberg

Greatest show on earth right here on our doorsteps

IF experience is anything to go by, the Ashton Entertainment circus takes the cake.

The show is run by members of Australia's oldest circus family, founded in the early 1800s by James Henry Ashton who got the first Australian circus licensed in Parliament in 1851.

And while some aspects of the Ashton family's shows have changed, fifth generation performer and Ashton Entertainment co-founder Jan Ashton-Rodriguez said many of the traditions remain the same.

"Instead of candles and oil lamps we have electricity and the tents are made of high quality plastic and not canvas... but the traditional acts have remained the same," she said. "It's still a family show.

"Some of the acts that we perform, were performed the same as my great great grandfather did 100 years ago."

Having grown up in the wings of the Tivoli theatre circuit, Jan went on to co-found Ashton Entertainment with her husband, Brasil Rodriguez, and their two daughters in 2009.

Born in Spain, Brasil Rodriguez began his circus career with Los Muchachos Circus Troupe, performing for the King of Spain, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

After gaining a wealth of experience performing with elephants and big cats, Brasil went onto direct Abu the elephant, who starred in Street Fighter with Jean-Claude Van Damme and the Mission Impossible television series.

Chantel and Tamara Rodriguez are the circus's sixth generation stars. Chantel specialises in the aerial ring and Russian silks while Tamara does has "the hardest job" making audiences laugh as the circus clown and a world class juggler.

Remi Rodriguez is the seventh generation of the Ashton family and began performing as a bareback rider at just 16 months.

Like any family, the Rodriguezes have their moments.

"We're the same as any other family," Jan said. "We work together 365 days a year… so of course there's moments where we're at each other's throats.

"But we've got a common interest and that's a love of the circus." Ashton Entertainment is one of three circuses currently touring in Australia run my members of the Ashton family.

Catch THE CIRCUS

Bangalow Showgrounds: Tonight at 4pm and 7pm. Sunday at 11am.

Evans Head, Stan Payne Oval: Thursday, 15, at 7pm. Friday 16, at 7pm. Saturday 17 at 4pm and 7pm and Sunday 18 at 11am.

Cabarita Beach, Pony Club Grounds: Friday, 23, at 7pm. Saturday 24 at 4pm and 7pm. Sunday 25 at 11am.

Murwillumbah Showgrounds: Friday 30 at 7pm. Saturday 31 at 4pm.

For more information go to www.ashtonenter- tainment.com.au