Bread company gets elephant's share of circus work

DeWayne Bartels
Sam Polito, at end of table, slices dough into 20 ounce batches as Jeni Moore, left foreground, Stephanie Polito and Todd Moore knead the dough. The Polito's and Moore's are making 180 loaves of honey wheat bread to be fed to the elephants of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Sam and Stephanie Polito, owners of Great Harvest Bread in North Peoria, have been toiling like dogs since 5 a.m. to prepare bread for elephants.

The Politio’s received a call last week from a representative of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which will be in town later this week.

The circus placed an order for 180 loaves of honey wheat bread to be given to the elephants as treats.

“What a chocolate sundae is to us, honey wheat bread is to elephants,” Stephanie said is the way it was explained to her.

“I didn’t know what to think when I received the call. I was kind of perplexed,” Sam said. “It’s awesome though.”

Sam said as he thought about it though the order makes sense.

“Without that oven over there we don’t have a show. We maintain it,” he said.

“Without those elephants they don’t have a show. Whether it’s an over or an elephant you want to take care of them.”

Taking care of the elephants, Sam said, means all natural ingredients. He said the wheat used in the bread was milled in the store fresh this morning. The only other ingredients are water, salt, honey and yeast.

“This is about as natural as you can get,” Sam said.

The company has been in business for three years. Sam said this is the most unusual order they have ever received.

He said they usually make about 180 loaves of honey wheat bread in a week, so this order is a big one.

As the Polito’s and friends Todd and Jeni Moore began kneading the bread, Jeni said, “This is exciting. It’s fun. Our girls wanted to come.”

Sam began cutting the dough into 20 ounce batches. As he began to throw the dough to the others over the radio came the opening strains of Jethro Tull’s “Bungle In the Jungle.”

“Stephanie smiled and said, “That’s appropriate.”