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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Elephants munch down at Ringling Thanksgiving

TAMPA — Nicole and five of her friends with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus enjoyed a healthy mid-morning Thanksgiving Day snack of apples, bananas, lettuce and carrots - and naturally for visitors to Tampa, Cuban bread.

A watermelon for dessert topped off just one portion of an all day feast Thursday of up to 300 pounds of food required to sustain the Asian elephants, whose weights ranged from 6,000 to 9,200 pounds.

Nicole had no comment when asked if she were the 9,200 pound pachyderm. (She is.)

But 5-year-old Symone McDonald of Valrico looked out for Nicole’s interests, asking if someone would brush Nicole’s teeth.

The morning gathering at the Florida State Fairgrounds brought more than 100 guests from the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, the Skills Center and other community groups to meet some of the clowns and animals that will appear in the circus shows at the Forum from Jan. 1-5.

Symone and her father, Chris, and mother, Debbie, began their holiday with their friends from the Skills Center before heading to Symone’s grandmother’s home.

“We are going to have a Thanksgiving feast,” Symone announced.

Of course it would be a great deal different from the elephants who commanded the youngster’s attention as they munched politely from food placed on tables, using their trunks to cradle the fruit and bread and melons they dropped and cracked to ensure elephant etiquette with bite-sized chunks.

Later in the day, the elephants would get a couple rounds of their main course called “elephant chow.”

“It’s like puppy chow, only a lot bigger portions,” said Melinda Hartline, public relations director for Feld Entertainment, which acquired Ringling Bros. in 1967.

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