DANSVILLE — The circus came to town and dazzled audiences young and old to benefit the Dansville Baseball Program at Dansville Central.


Billy Martin’s Cole All-Star Circus has been coming to Dansville Central since the late 1980s. All of the money raised at the event goes to a specific program.


The thrill of the show came Jan. 7 in the high school gym. It was a packed room as people poured in eager to see “The Greatest Show on Earth.”


The circus went to Wayland-Cohocton Central on Jan. 8 to benefit the Teacher’s Association for scholarship money. They have been going to Wayland-Cohocton Central since the 1980s as well.


The Cole All-Star Circus has been around since the 1930s. James Cole was a legendary showman who ran his circus up until his retirement at 80 years old. Cole passed the torch to Billy Martin who has been running it for the past 30 years.


“The Cole Circus is 80 years old,” Martin said. “I was a young kid from Olean when I saw the circus come to my school. I remember wanting to be in it. He (Cole) encouraged me, and I worked for him for 10 years. I have been in the circus for 40 years, and owned it for 30.”


Martin met Cole in 1972 when he was 12 years old, and became fascinated by it. He began a friendship with Cole that would change his life.


At 14 years old Martin began booking shows for Cole at schools across Western New York. After graduating in 1977, Martin ran off to join the circus. He continues to keep the legacy of the Cole All-Star Circus alive.


Martin got his start as a juggling and balancing act, served as ringmaster, and became Cole’s right hand man.


“It is a way of life for us,” Martin said. “We are playing at 100 schools this year. The Dansville one is our third show of the year. It is a great and affordable event.”


Martin added he has the best job in the circus, because he gets to watch it and be a part of it.


“This is a dream come true for me,” he said. “I am grateful Mr. Cole entrusted the circus to me.”


Martin’s favorite part of the show is the very beginning.


“The beginning of the show when all the lights go up and the audience gasps and says ‘Wow’ is my favorite part,” he said. “We always deliver a great show.”


Most of the schools in the New York and upper Pennsylvanian areas have had a long-term relationship with the Cole All-Star Circus.


The Martin’s are proud of their heritage and the impeccable reputation of the Cole Circus in providing only the finest in family entertainment, and they hope the audiences continue to enjoy the tradition.


For more information you can visit the Billy Martin’s Cole All-Star Circus website at http://www.circusesandsideshows.com/circuses/billymartinallstarcircus.html