The 50 children who performed under a circus tent on July 31 didn't have to run off to join the Barnum and Bailey to do so: they just went to the Park District's Big Top/Little Top Camp.
The four to seven week circus camp celebrated its 20th year this summer with an annual performance even more unique than usual. The typical unicycling, tightrope walking and juggling occurred under an actual circus tent in Larry Fink Memorial Park.
"We have counselors who are specialists from the city and know circus stuff
that teach the kids all these special skills," said Camp Big Top/Little Top supervisor Julie Naatz.
Each summer, about 80 children between the fourth and eighth grade arrive at the camp to learn circus tricks. While some only stay one session, typically 50 stay for the full seven weeks of the program and get to perform in big show at the end of it.
"They rotate and learn different skills with the counselors," Naatz said. "They really step out of their comfort zone."
In addition to learning to walk on eight-foot stilts, walk on balls or stand on horses, the children who participate gain a confidence they didn't have before, according to Naatz.
"We see kids who are so shy and so scared, they just don't think they want to do anything, they start to say, 'I'm going to give it a try,'" Naatz said. "They're just different kids when they leave here."
Naatz has been working with the program for six years, and is pleasantly surprised each summer to see how each performance comes out.
"iI's so neat, it's just a different world," Naatz said. "You see the kids doing something you just feel proud of the PD for doing this."
See more photos from this year's circus show above.