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Circus elephants another unforgettable aspect of day's events

The parade to Staples, where Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey starts performing Wednesday, had long been planned but added to the experience for the gathered Jackson fans.

July 08, 2009|Nicole Santa Cruz

The hundreds of Michael Jackson fans, media and souvenir hawkers outside Staples Center on Tuesday made for quite a circus.

And then, out of nowhere, another circus arrived. A real circus.

Just before dawn Tuesday, onlookers were treated to the sight of 11 Asian elephants being herded three miles from a train stop to an enclosure at the arena where the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is set to begin performances today.

Given Jackson's affection for animals and the way he turned his Neverland Ranch into a petting zoo, it was easy to assume that the parade of pachyderms was a 100,000-pound tribute to the entertainer.

"It's awesome," said Lupe Andrade of Montebello, who was dropping off a friend who works at the arena. "I thought they were for Michael."

The elephants walked in a line, each one holding onto the tail of the one in front of it with its trunk.

Handlers directed the procession by issuing commands in various languages, including French, German and Spanish.

As the animals trotted toward the purple glow of Staples Center, more and more people gathered to take pictures.

Even the cops were taking photos. For a moment, Michael Jackson wasn't the day's focal point.

The circus and the elephant walk have been a tradition in L.A. since 1922, said Andy Perez, a Ringling Bros. spokesman.

City Councilwoman Jan Perry had a smile on her face as she watched the elephants trek along Washington Boulevard. She woke up at 3 a.m. to catch a glimpse of the animals.

"I'm impressed at how quiet they are," she said.

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nicole.santacruz @latimes.com

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