Why did I wait so long to see the Wenatchee Youth Circus?

The cast of performers in costume stands in the center ring at the beginning of the show. This year’s troupe of 50 to 70 members ranged in age from 8 months to 18 years. (Jim Russell photo)

The cast of performers in costume stands in the center ring at the beginning of the show. This year’s troupe of 50 to 70 members ranged in age from 8 months to 18 years. (Jim Russell photo)

 

By Jim Russell
Empire Press Correspondent

In August, after living here more than 13 years, curiosity finally drew me to the Wenatchee Youth Circus, billing itself as “The Biggest Little Circus in the World.” Their program says, “it is considered to be one of the four top nonprofessional troupes in the nation.” They’ve performed in front of two million people in the United States and Canada over their 63-year history.

Nevertheless, I expected to see youth stumbling through their routines as volunteers struggled to avoid delays that make adults bored and children lose interest. Boy, was I wrong. The Youth Circus is thoroughly entertaining and the developmental experience for the youth is tremendous.

Five wagons provided the background for the circus, stretched in front of nine stands of bleachers. Red and white banners streamed from tents and poles. There were tight wires and incline cables, high wires, trampolines, Roman ladders, a single trapeze, tumbling mats and a flying trapeze, which swung high above a huge landing net.

The bleachers filled up and right on time the young ring mistress in her top hat briefly welcomed us. Music blared from the speakers and costumed performers charged out with energy. The youth performed quickly and the Blue Crew, a group of volunteers and other circus performers, kept the set-ups on time.

Performers scrambled up ropes and ladders, bounced off trampolines, walked large balls in front of the circus rings, flipped from teeterboards and juggled bowling pins, knives and flaming torches. The flying trapeze gymnasts soared through space to grab the wrists of their partners.

Performers, ranging in age from 8 months 18 years old, worked in groups. Whether they were tumbling across a trampoline or walking a tight wire, they all encouraged, protected and applauded each other. As soon as a performer finished, the right hand went up in salute to the audience along with a smile.

Even if a performer fell from a wire or missed their landing, they immediately stood with a smile, waving their right hand in salute to the audience. The salute told me the performer gave it their best. And they immediately scrambled back up that wire and did it better and gave us another salute.

Imagine the impact on younger performers who make a mistake and then hear their fellow performers, no matter how young or old, give them praise because they gave it their best. And they are committed to doing better and better because they see the older youth doing it better and better.

This has been going on for 63 years since Paul Pugh, a teacher and principal at Orchard Middle School, began a gymnastic club after school to keep youth busy in winter. His goal was for each member to be dedicated to always improving their performance. That salute is their promise they are continuously improving.

Glenna Brown, Youth Circus treasurer and a volunteer for many years, said the experience is extremely valuable for youth in the work world and school. “They have the ability to do teamwork, be supportive of other workers and be good employees and students.”

What a treat to be entertained by an outstanding organization, primarily run by volunteers, that teaches each performer to continuously become better by giving their best. What a gift Paul Pugh, or Guppo the Clown as he’s known in costume while performing with the youth, has created.

Shame on me for taking so long to see the Youth Circus. Next summer, make sure you see it, or see it again. It’s an amazing institution based in our community.

 

Trapeze performers Eathynn Geren and Zella Tyer are watched by Youth Circus Blue Crew members Tony Talbott, Martin Talbott, Brandon Brown, Will Tuthill and Kimberly Berreth. The Blue Crew, a group of volunteers and other performers from the circus, serve as spotters during aerial acts. (Jim Russell photo)

Trapeze performers Eathynn Geren and Zella Tyer are watched by Youth Circus Blue Crew members Tony Talbott, Martin Talbott, Brandon Brown, Will Tuthill and Kimberly Berreth. The Blue Crew, a group of volunteers and other performers from the circus, serve as spotters during aerial acts. (Jim Russell photo)

 

Paul Pugh. (Jim Russell photo)

Paul Pugh. (Jim Russell photo)