Column: Albert Lea could host the Alberti Flea Circus

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tim Engstrom, Pothole Prairie

Here’s my pitch for an act at next year’s Freeborn County Fair:

The Alberti Flea Circus.

Yes, Albert Lea seems like the perfect place for the Alberti Fleas to visit. What a draw!

I discovered it when looking up &8220;Albert Lea&8221; online.

Jim Hobbs of Winston-Salem, N.C., goes by Jim Alberti when he leads this act of tiny, hard-to-see performers. You might have seen him at the Minnesota State Fair or the Iowa State Fair.

I’d describe what these fleas do, but I have no idea. Can fleas really be trained to perform?

Well, here’s what reporter Chris Coursey of the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., wrote about the Alberti Flea Circus:

&8220;Hobbs’ act is a throwback to the days of the flimflam man and the snake-oil salesman, but what Hobbs is selling is escape. Escape from video games and special effects and e-everything. Escape to the imagination.

&8220;Fleas, after all, are practically invisible without a powerful imagination.

&8220;&8216;See Paddy O’Reilly Shaughnessy wave the Irish flag!’ touts Hobbs, arching his thick eyebrows under a black bowler hat. &8216;See the Daring Dardenell make her death-defying dive! See Capt.

Spaulding shot out of a cannon at 40 mph!’ You can’t see a darned one of them, of course. But as Hobbs cranks his antique street organ and the sounds of a circus fill the fair beneath the fairgrounds’ oaks, a crowd draws near. They crane their necks and stand on tippy-toes to get a better look at what he’s got pinched in a pair of tweezers.&8221;

And, according to, fair managers across the country say great things about the Albert Lea, er, Alberti Flea Circus:

&8220;The Alberti Flea Circus instantly became one of our most popular ground acts.&8221; &045;&045; Gary Luba, Nevada State Fair

&8220;It was family entertainment at its finest&8221; &045; Hale Moss, Wilson County Fair, Tenn.

&8220;The Alberti Flea Circus did just what we hoped for-more traffic, much more traffic flow.&8221; &045; Jim Gleason, Adams County Fair, Neb.

&8220;A real bonus with this show is the media attention. From the time we announced our entertainment line-up, reporters were calling to ask about the Flea Circus Š&160;the response Š&160;was phenomenal. We went from crowds of 150 to 200 per show to more than double that.&8221; &045;

Jane Engdahl, Sonoma County Fair, Calif.

&8220;Your shows were enjoyed by young and old Š We had to increase the seating twice to accommodate the crowds Š&160;it is refreshing to see the use of imagination as the primary form of entertainment. I enjoyed working with you.&8221; &045; Jan Higgins, Iowa State Fair

Well, it’s just a suggestion. Take it or leave it.

Ben Roethlisberger

When the quarterback for the Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh Steelers crashed his motorcycle, I figured Big Ben would be in violation of his contract. That’s because last fall I had seen an interview with basketball legend Michael Jordan. It was probably the only episode of &8220;Oprah&8221; I’ve watched in the past year, maybe the past five years.

He had stated he had been under contractual obligation with the Chicago Bulls not to ride motorcycles. Now that he was no longer playing, he rides his motorcycle through the streets of Chicago, usually at night. He wears a leather outfit Nike made specially for him, and with his helmet motorists don’t know that Michael Jordan is on the motorcycle right next to them.

When Browns receiver Kellen Winslow II wiped out before his rookie year, I figured he, too, had been in contract trouble.

But now I learn that the standard NFL player’s contract does not specifically prohibit players from doing anything away from the team. In other words, it doesn’t prohibit them from riding motorcycles, skiing, skydiving, mountain climbing and other high-risk activities.

Further, I’ve learned that Packers quarterback Brett Favre and Titans quarterback Steve McNair regularly ride motorcycles in their home state of Mississippi.

Of course, people should ride motorcycles if they want to. It’s their decision. I don’t mind when they ride without helmets, either. It’s a free country.

But am I surprised that NFL teams don’t prohibit players from doing high-risk activities? Yes.

Teams invest millions of dollar in these people’s athletic skills. You’d think with all those team lawyers and doctors they would protect their investments. It is a bit different than you and me. Nobody is investing millions of dollars in my ability to type.

Oh well. What do I care about Ben Roethlisberger? I am a Vikings fan, and I cheered for the Seahawks to win Super Bowl XL. In my view, the refs gave the trophy to the Steelers.

I wonder if the car Roethlisberger crashed into June 12 was driven by a Seahawks fan. I hear she’s received threatening phone calls.

I’m happy to hear he will be cited for failure to wear a helmet and for failure to operate with a motorcycle license. In Pennsylvania, only licensed motorcycle operators can ride without a helmet.

Of course, the Steelers organization has a few extra helmets, if Big Ben lost his.

Phil Mickelson

The golfer was on his way to winning his third consecutive major title Sunday in the U.S. Open. All he had to do was play it safe, hit it down the fairway of No. 18 and make par. Instead, he gambled and went for the green.

That left him in the rough. The next shot sailed left of the green and went into the bunker. His next shot went into the rough. He chipped on the green and made a putt. In the end, he had a double bogey, more or less handing the trophy to Geoff Ogilvy.

After, Mickelson said: &8220;I still am in shock that I did that. I just can’t believe that I did that. I am such an idiot.&8221;

That sounds like me when I play golf.

(Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.)