Local News

Circus Suing Wilson County Sheriff

Posted Updated

WILSON — The Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus is suing Wilson CountySheriff Wayne Gay for trying to keep it from making a scheduled stop inWilson next month. Gay is using a little-known law to keep the circusout.

North Carolina General Statute 106-516.1, passed in 1953, applies to countiesthat have annual agricultural fairs. It requires carnivals and circuses toget a permit to operate from the county sheriff. Gay said he can't givethat permit to the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus, a point of law thatwill likely be argued in court.

The Florida-based Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus wants to make itsscheduled stop in Wilson next month, only five days before the county fair. Officials with the American Legion, the group that oversees thefair, said the circus will ruin its event.

Hinnant and the legion board have asked Gay to enforce the North Carolinastatute that prohibits events like the circus from operating within 30days of a county fair.

The circus is suing the sheriff, who said he'll arrest the circus managerand possibly his performers, if they open their show next month. Hinnantsaid the circus has violated the law at least twice before, and this year,it had to stop.

The circus said it challenged a similar law in Florida seven years ago andsucceeded in getting it declared unconstitutional. Violating the NorthCarolina law is a misdemeanor that carries a fine, jail time, or both, andthe decision is at the discretion of the court.

Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.