Rooster and I travel to Peru, Indiana to attend the Circus City Festival. We experienced an evening of wonder and excitement during the show. #Circus City Festival #Peru #Indiana
Circus City Festival
It was ninety-seven degrees and muggy by eight o’clock in the morning. There wasn’t even the suggestion of a breeze stirring to blow around the stagnant air. It was also the last day of the Circus City Festival in Peru, Indiana. This is my year of the circus. It seems like every aspect of my life has revolved around “The Greatest Show on Earth” since we visited The Circus City Center last winter.
Peru is a very conservative mid-west town. How odd would it be to have the local Methodist pastor’s wife standing in line at the grocery store with the bearded lady or a trapeze artist? The thought wouldn’t leave me alone. Before I knew it, I had the nucleus of a story outlined in my head. I finished my first rewrite of book four in My Hen House Series and jumped into the process of writing Circus People.
It’s been slow going. I have blog posts to write which interrupt the flow of the story. A blog is a hungry monster because you need to post on a regular basis. I suspect the first draft of my novel about the circus will be a jumbled mess by the time I finish.
This book has made me feel as jittery as a juggler in a windstorm. We made a trip back to Peru to visit The International Circus Hall of fame. Cirque Italia came to town, and we paid the price of admission to attend the show. The Circus City Festival appears to be the pinnacle my year of the circus has been heading towards.
Peru Amateur Circus
The idea was to get up early and head for Peru. We managed to roll out of bed at seven a.m. Heading for Peru turned out to be the problem. It was too hot to get Rooster motivated. He wanted air conditioning and lots of it. I wasn’t in the mood to try to persuade him after I stepped out of the front door of our house, and it felt as if I was breathing dragon breath when the hot air hit my face. The first performance of the day by the Peru Amateur Circus was supposed to take place at 2 o’clock.
We decided to hang out in the air conditioning of a local coffee shop to do a little writing before it was time to leave. It was hot as blazes when we climbed into the Sunshine mobile and started the drive to Peru. We didn’t make it to the freeway before we decided to wait until the 7 o’clock show in the hope a cold front would move in to bring down the temperature and humidity.
Navigating the road construction
We drove to Peru through the obstacle course of construction detours. The bridge on the main drag leading into the small city is closed and has been for two years. We navigated the back roads until we made it into town.
Excitement coursed through my veins when I caught a glimpse of the amusement rides erected in the street ahead of us. We were finally going to the circus. It didn’t take long for us to find a parking place. The Sunshine Mobile can squeeze in almost anywhere. Searing heat slapped us in the face as soon as we opened the car door and stepped onto the asphalt of the parking lot. Carnival rides reminiscent of the ones we experienced as children lined the streets of downtown Peru.
Festival amusement rides
It was a blast from the past. There was the scrambler, the Tilt-A-Whirl, a Ferris Wheel, and the illusive Hammer. (There will be a short piece of fiction coming soon about my encounter with this amusement ride when I was a kid.) They even had elephant Dumbo and motorcycle kiddie rides. The street was deserted except for a few hardy souls brave enough to endure the heat and humidity. Our plan was to sample the fair food. The oppressive temperature forced us to change gears and headed for a local air-conditioned fast food joint.
Clowns in the street
Everyone else in town seemed to have the same idea including a stray clown who wandered in off the street. He seemed to blend in with the other diners here in Circus City. I felt like a scene from my book was being acted out right before my eyes. This is the only place on earth where you will see an Amish person mingling with clowns and other circus personnel.
From the moment we picked up our tickets from the box office, we could feel the excitement of the circus in the air. We took our seats on the front row and watched the roustabouts doing the job of making sure the equipment was ready for the show. The circus musicians started to warm up. Music filled the tiny gym style auditorium. The tradition of a band playing while the circus performers are doing their acts dates back to the 1800s.
The modern Circus Band consists of both amateur and professional musicians. Some of the performers in the band travel from as far away as New Orleans and New York to volunteer to put on these three-hour shows over a two-week period. Over the course of the show, the band played pop, rock, jazz, country, and rhythm & blues. Clowns worked for the crowd while the audience waited for the performance to start. One particular female clown got a little too familiar with Rooster. There was about to be a smackdown right there under the big top.
The Peru Amateur Circus is made up of two-hundred performers between the ages of seven and twenty-one. The young age of the participants is why this show is sometimes referred to as the Children’s Circus. I thought this might turn into one of those events like a dance or piano recital where the children aren’t very good, but you show up to give the tiny participants moral support. I was pleasantly surprised.
The first act was tightrope walking. The kids may have been a little slow and clumsy at times, but they walked the wire with precision. They even did stunts like sitting in a chair on the wire or carrying another person across the entire length on their shoulders. The jugglers only dropped one item during their performance. They didn’t appear to get singed when they juggled lighted torches.
The Flying Squirrels
The Flying Squirrels amazed me. Small children were tossed from catcher to catcher who was suspended from a swing on a trapeze. Children worked the rings and the hoops. There were contortionists, tumblers, single trapeze, tiny clowns, bicycle and unicycle stunts, and for the finale the double trapeze.
There were all the elements of the circus minus the lions, tigers, bears, and elephants. They even did the traditional clowns in a Volkswagen taxi act where it seemed like twenty of their friends had been crammed into the tight space. There were times when you forgot the stunts being performed were done by children.
Rooster turned to me and said, “These kids are doing really dangerous stuff. They could get hurt.” I had to agree with him, but I thought it was one remarkable confidence builder. It also supports my theory that circus people have secret superpowers. There were no “helicopter parents” hovering around, but there were some serious trainers who never took their eyes off the kids.
Rooster got restless
The show was three hours long. Rooster was a little restless by the end. It’s hard for him to sit in one place for long. My night spent with the Amature Circus proved to be great research for the book I’m writing. My characters will definitely participate in a similar Circus City Festival. I’m currently writing about Destiny and Justin’s training for the trapeze. Visiting this event will add a new layer to my writing. By the time the performers took their final march around the arena, I knew I had been to the circus.
Cirque Italia was flashier and used more technology to control the light and sound effects in the performance, but the Peru Amateur Circus had the feel of the traditional shows such as Ringling Brothers put on back in the day. The evening left me optimistic about the future of the circus. I know as long as there are children interested in learning the skills needed to perform the acts required to put on “The Greatest Show on Earth” the spirit of the circus will never die.
May all your days be circus days
The Peru Armature Circus has been in existence since 1960. The Ringmaster took the time to acknowledge the presence of the Alumnus. A crowd of people was proud to stand to their feet. If you are ever anywhere near Peru, Indiana in the month of July, be sure and stop by The Circus City Festival. You will be glad you did. Jack Ryan once coined the phrase, “May All Your Days Be Circus Days.” I’ll end with the thought from his lips to God’s ears.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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