Two Youth Circuses in One Year!
By Jim Cole Photos by Jim Cole & Jennifer L Cave Thacker
Percentage wise, the chances of a kid being part of a youth circus are very slim. There are only about 20 or so performing youth circuses in the entire nation, with maybe a few thousand kids? Now, with only four or five performing youth circuses that have flying trapeze, the number of kids who are in that act is probably around 20 – 30.
Narrow that down to those who can do the double somersault, and we are currently at 3 or 4. So with all that in mind, what are the chances that a kid (who can do a double) being a part of two different youth circuses in the same year which are at complete opposite corners of the country?
This all came about last November when two young performers from the Wenatchee Youth Circus, Courtney Tipton and William Tuthill were hosted by Circus4Youth on a visit to Florida. Part of that trip included a visit to Sailor Circus. Courtney and Billy were introduced to the Sailor Circus kids and instantly made friends with them. Billy (himself a good flyer) was quite impressed with the flying trapeze skills of Jacob Swe. The two became especially good friends, and Billy was invited up on the Sailor Circus flying rig and do some swinging. Both flyers have the difficult double somersault to their credit.
The two stayed in contact through social media, and the idea was raised about Jacob coming out to Washington to spend some time on their show as a guest performer this summer. Numerous details had to be worked out, but Billy (whom is on the Circus4Youth committee) was able to get full permission from his circus for Jacob to join the Wenatchee Youth Circus as a special guest performer.
After a long jet trip from Tampa to Seattle, there was a 3 hour layover, then a short flight to Wenatchee. Jacob and I arrived in Wenatchee at around 5:04 PM on Sunday July 20. Billy met us (I was on the same flight from Seattle) and took us to the lot and introduced Jacob around. Instant circus friends! By 5:40 pm, Jacob was up on the fly rig working out with his Wenatchee counterparts!
“Before my arrival at the grounds of the Wenatchee Youth Circus home shows, I had strong feelings of anxiety and nervousness in regard to the level of acceptance and inclusion I was going to receive. However, upon stepping one foot on the circus lot, I was greeted as one of their own, a fellow performer. All of my fears and hesitations immediately evaporated.”
The Sailor Circus and the Wenatchee Circus are very different from each other, yet in many ways the same.
“The first few days consisted of some somewhat awkward, short, conversations; but after, I started making friends, that I will keep for the rest of my life. These friends, over the next three weeks, would come to be family. We basically camped out on the lot, boys in one tent, girls in the other. But we all ate together in the cook-shack. This, along with the new rigging situation, would come to be the biggest quasi-culture shock of the trip. But, it would also come to be the part that would stick with me the most, both in my mind and in my heart.”
Sailor Circus is in session from late August until early April, and they have practice on all school days that runs from about 3pm until around 7pm. They give two sets of performances in their permanent building, one in December, and the other in late March – early April.
“After a few practices, I was performing in their show. Now, keep in mind that I was returning from a four-month break; so, I wasn’t in the best of shape. But, nonetheless they worked with me. They helped me redevelop and rediscover my skills, slowly adding me into different parts of the show, until I was completely comfortable performing in my little niche of the show.”
Wenatchee on the other hand, performs outside under open skies and travels around the state of Washington from Memorial Day – Labor Day doing about a dozen performance dates. Many of their acts are the same, and with just a few practices and adjustments, the kids could easily work on one the other’s circus. This was the case for Jacob. But he first had to “try out” for the Wenatchee head trainer Brandon Brown, but that was a short formal process, and was quickly fitted for wardrobe and was routined into the trampoline act, tumbling, and flying trapeze.
After only a few shows, Jacob’s “guest performer” status was soon phased out, and was considered by all to be a regular part of the Wenatchee Youth Circus! He camped out on the lot with the kids, ate in the cookhouse, helped with set up and take down, practiced, and was included in numerous fun trips and kids social events between show dates. But most important, he made some great new friends!
“Importantly to me, I was not brought in just as a guest performer, but also as someone capable of sharing knowledge and experience with the rest of the cast. Luckily for me, at my home in the Sailor Circus, we have a plethora of trained ex-professional coaches teaching us. These training methods, which have transformed me from “spaghetti-legs” to someone with reasonable form, worked magic for the trampoline act. But this training didn’t go just one direction. I learned more in these three weeks on the Wenatchee Youth Circus, in regards to commitment and dedication, than I ever thought possible. And for that, I am infinitely thankful.”
“Continuing, the rigging situation with Wenatchee was certainly different that that of Sailor Circus. Sailor is in a permanent building with rigging tie-offs already in place. Wenatchee is outdoors and over 100 iron stakes need to be driven into the ground to secure the rigging tie-offs. Most of the older kids can easily handle a 16 lb sledge hammer!”
Wenatchee catcher Cole Tipton had this to say about working with Jacob:
“Flying with Jacob was like adding him to part of our circus family. While he was in Washington, not only were we able to share techniques and tricks with each other, but we were also given the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company. In circus there are no goodbyes, we say “until next time,” and I can’t wait for the next time I get to hang out with my friend, and circus family member, from Sarasota.”
Aerialist Maddy Jenkins says:
“Jacob quickly became part of the circus family! My favorite memories with Jacob were the good times we all had talking outside of cookshack at night before curfew. Jacob will truly be missed but he knows he’ll always be a part of the Wenatchee Youth Circus’ family”
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Jacob will be making the return trip back to Sarasota for school on Sunday Aug. 10. He will soon be back at Sailor Circus and will do so with some great experiences (and photos) that he will share with his friends in Sarasota.
There is a good possibility that a few of his Wenatchee Circus friends will be visiting him in December and watching Sailor Circus, and as I understand it, Jacob has an open invitation to return to Washington next summer!
“To close, in between the sets of shows, I stayed with some of the circus families. Firstly, Jillian Davis, whom will be joining me in Sarasota for our shows along with, potentially, four other Wenatchee Youth Circus performers, allowed me to stay with her for an extended period of time between my second and third sets of shows. For this, I am extremely thankful. Not only did the Davis’ invite me into their home on extremely short notice, they were also some of the most inclusive, polite, and interesting people I’ve ever met. Secondly, Daniel McGee and the McGee’s, another amazing performer and family that without hesitation allowed me to stay with them; once again, I am extremely thankful. Finally, I would like to thank the entire cast of the Wenatchee Youth Circus for becoming what is in essence, a new family. I love and miss you guys… And remember: “In the circus, it’s never goodbye; it’s until next time”.