The Jordan World Circus always packs the Montezuma County Fairgrounds when the traveling circus stops in town.
"The circus has been coming here for years," said Montezuma County Fairground manager Tanner Young. "They do a great job."
In previous years, an estimated 700 people attend each of two performances in Cortez, Young said. He and his crew worked over the weekend in preparation for 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. shows Monday.
"We came in and rolled the ground to get it ready," Young said Monday morning, standing atop a packed-dirt surface. "Today, we're running the lifts to help them set up for their high-wire acts."
"What's amazing is they take all day to set up, but then they'll have it all tore down in about an hour-and-a-half," he added.
Taking a moment from a frenzied state of setting up the arena, circus manager Dieter Galambos said the crew arrived in Cortez last night after performing shows in Vernal, Utah, over the weekend. They started unloading gear at 7:30 a.m. Monday.
"The three ring mats go out first," Galambos said.
As ponies, a zebra and a camel were brought into the arena, Young and his crew helped circus performers establish a secure connection for one of the acrobat acts.
"How tall is the ceiling?" a performer asked.
Galambos immediately rummaged through a grey box to search for a laser measuring tape.
"We're checking to see if our human cannon is going to fit in here," he said.
As a three-man crew worked to stretch three center ring tarps taut, three elephants fed on bales of hay. Soon after, several cages of tigers were wheeled inside the arena.
"We haul meat in freezers with us to feed the tigers," Galampos said.
One crew member said the best part of working with the circus is the travel.
"We go everywhere," he said.
As he worked to set up lighting, the crewman said the worst part of the circus was training new crew members how to properly set up for the show.
"They can't count to seven?" he yelled across the arena. "C'mon, man."
After the last performance Monday, the circus will break down, pack up and head to the next town. Next stop, Farmington for two days of shows.