Children from schools in Rosemont and Chicago were treated to a special visit Friday with the big cats and one of the world's foremost trainers.
Alexander Lacey, whose family has raised more than 11 generations of lions and nine generations of tigers, is one of only a handful of top trainers worldwide to work with both lions and tigers in the same act.
Having performed throughout Europe and earned many of the circus world's most prestigious awards, Lacey is making his American debut as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus presents "Dragons."
On Friday at the Allstate Arena, Lacey and the big cats spent more than an hour delighting his young audience by taking them through a training session.
Sitting on the arena floor, just outside the training cage, the children were close enough to hear Lacey communicate with the cats in both English and German, and witness up-close the uncanny bond between the cats and the trainer who knows them so well he can distinguish each by its own unique physical characteristics, behaviors and even the sound of its roar.
"Dragons" remains at the Allstate Arena this weekend before it moves to the United Center Nov. 14-25.