'Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind'

At the “Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind” Lion and Tiger Show this week at the Sykesville Ag & Youth Fair, Vincent Von Duke stands beside one of the show’s tigers.

SYKESVILLE – Roaarrrrrr!

The sound of a lion can be heard on the Sykesville fairgrounds.

The ferocious roar comes from “Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind,” a lion and tiger show at this year’s Sykesville Ag & Youth Fair.

The attraction is thrilling fair goers with its big cats.

One child, Ethan Lauer of Brookville, enjoyed the show this week.

He said his favorite part was when he saw a tiger jump through a hoop.

Georgina “Pom Pom” Donoho and her husband, Vincent Von Duke, who own the show and the animals, said they’ve had good crowds for the show. It’s presented at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily, with an extra show at 3 p.m. on Saturday, according to the fair schedule.

The fair’s webpage shows a photo of one of the show’s lions, Mufasa.

“We call him Mo,” Donoho said.

The 8-year-old lion was born in a private zoo in Springfield, Ill.

“He’s a spoiled brat is what he is,” she said with a laugh.

In total, they have 10 big cats with them, two male lions, two female lions and six tigers, which includes two white tigers, three regular tigers and a very rare tiger, called a tabby.

“She is blond with ginger stripes,” Donoho said of the tabby. “She’s beautiful.”

When asked if Mo is the star of the show, Donoho chuckles.

“He thinks he is,” she said. “Yes, he’s very popular.”

Their old lioness, Chi Chi, also makes an impression.

“She is very popular, because she’s a comedian,” Donoho said. “She’s a character. She has her own personality.”

The lioness was born in Orlando, Fla.

Donoho said none of their big cats come from the wild.

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“They haven’t brought an animal in since 1978, when they passed the Endangered Species Act,” she commented.

The big cats are born and bred in captivity.

Donoho said the show is an educational program. They talk about how much food and what kind of food the lions and tigers eat, and how long they live.

“I try to answer every question that people ask,” she said.

In the show, the lions and tigers jump hurdles and through a fire hoop. There’s also a lot of comedy.

“We like to keep it light and nice, so the people enjoy it, and I think they do,” she said.

According to Donoho, the biggest question people ask is “do they attack you?”

“And it’s absolutely not true,” she said. “No, they don’t.”

People also ask how much the big cats eat.

“They eat 20 to 30 pounds of meat a day,” she said. They eat raw beef and chicken, with eggs and milk once a week, plus lots of vitamins.

While tigers would only live 10 to 11 years in the wild, Donoho said she and her husband have seen their animals live longer.

“Vince and I have had them 27 years old,” she said.

She noted that lions also live 10 to 11 years old in the wild, but their lioness is 18 years old and is still “feisty.”

Donoho, who lives in Florida, said their lions and tigers, when they were babies, were raised in the house. Their grandchildren bottle-fed them. She said their animals are very loved. She said they are gentle with them, yet disciplined.

Both Donoho and her husband have a long family legacy in the animal business.

It goes back seven generations in her family, in England, and six generations in her husband’s family, in Germany. Her family came to America from England in 1955.

“They were in the circus, they had their own circus, in 1800,” she said of her family’s circus, the Scott Family Circus. “And they performed before Queen Victoria in the castle, so we go back a long way in the business.”

“It’s an interesting life, and you meet interesting people.”

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