This past weekend, TAI staff Jon Kay, Jennie Williams, and Maria Zeringue drove from Bloomington to Peru, Indiana to see the Circus City Festival. Maria and Jennie arrived in Peru at 10:00am on Saturday just in time to catch the parade. Peru’s circus parade features performers, clowns, jugglers, unicyclists, antique circus wagons, and community members who support the circus. We were impressed to find out at the event that this parade is one of the largest parades in Indiana!
After the parade we had some free time before the circus show started, so we walked along N. Broadway, where carnival rides were set up and local vendors were selling souvenirs and great carnival food! We did not ride any of the rides, but we had fun taking in the sights and eating sno-cones.
At 2:00pm, the Circus started. We were so excited to see the show! The lights dimmed and the performances began after a touching tribute to the volunteer riggers who help with the set up and tear down of equipment during the show. For roughly three hours we were amazed at the high caliber of talent and skill showed by the young performers through out the show. Peru’s Circus is special because it is comprised of young people ages 7-21 that live in Peru and Miami County. In fact, only students from Miami County are allowed to participate. The circus is truly a local treasure that is made possible by the hard work and dedication of 211 student-performers, 10 trainers, 3 assistant trainers, and over 2000 volunteers.
The Peru Circus City Festival has hosted a traditional youth circus for last 57 years, however Peru’s circus heritage dates back to the late 1800s when the The Wallace and Company Show opened in April of that year in Peru. During the early 1900s, Peru became a popular place for the winter quarters of the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus. Until the 1940s, Peru was an important hub for the circus arts in America with 3 major circuses being based there during their offseasons. In the late 1940s, circus companies started going bankrupt and many circus workers moved out of Peru.
Many years later in 1959, the Peru Circus City Festival and Amateur Circus were started by retired circus professionals who still lived in Peru. Three of the original founders were trainers in the original Hagenbeck-Wallace circus when it wintered in Peru. In 2016, the the Amateur Circus has quite a few 3rd and 4th generation performers in it’s lineup, who continue the rich circus heritage of Peru.
The circus ended it’s week-long run of performances this past Saturday, and we were glad that we were able to see the circus on it’s last day of scheduled programing. If you are ever in Peru during the middle of July, please try to see one of the most amazing shows in Indiana! There are so many great folk arts events happening in Indiana this summer, and the Peru circus is a great example of what our state has to offer.