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ZipUSA: 46970
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By Lynne WarrenPhotographs by Dave Yoder



Every July the kids in a midwest town don frilly costumes and fly through the air (with the greatest of ease). Has Peru, Indiana, lost its mind?



Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

Satin, sequins, and really tough arm muscles: It's a little girl's dream come true. At least it is in this small town, where every summer a couple hundred local kids and  a couple thousand volunteers put on a three-ring circus complete with clowns, snow cones, and standing ovations from sellout crowds.

Big-top mania even takes over downtown shop windows during the July circus festival. Preparations begin months before. Burly guys become bases for multi-girl stacks, and flyweight acrobats flash smiles—even when hanging by their hair. Trying a new balance trick was "sort of scary at first," says nine-year-old Ashlyn Koontz. "I tipped over a couple times. But once I learned how to do it, it was really fun." 

******
For the 2002 grand finale teens soared from trapezes three stories above center ring. Coming out of a twisting somersault, a flier reached for her catcher. On the ground friends clustered, fingers crossed, breath held. Would she make it? Then hands and wrists locked together, and cheering delight roared through the arena. Flowers and proud hugs followed. "This is really just a summer recreation program," Bill Anderson says modestly. Then he smiles. "But our kids get to do things most kids only dream about."

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In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
The circus as we know it today is 235-years-old and owes its origins to Philip Astley, a British sergeant-major who created the first show in 1768. An experienced equestrian, Astley discovered that if he galloped his horse in a circle while standing on its back, the centrifugal force helped him keep his balance.  In doing this, he traced the first circus ring. Astley put together a show of his horse-riding tricks, a clown, musicians, and other performers, creating the first modern circus.  After the success of Astley's circus, other performers began their own shows throughout Europe and the United States.

—Marisa Larson

Did You Know?


Related Links
Circusweb: Circuses Present and Past
www.circusweb.com/circuswebFrames.html
Learn about circus history and lore and link to circus sites from around the world.

The Greatest Amateur Show on Earth
www.perucircus.com/
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, step right up and experience the greatest amateur show on Earth: Peru, Indiana's youth circus.

International Circus Hall of Fame
www.circushalloffame.com/
Lions and tigers and bears…circus animals call this place home during the winter and after retirement. They're kept company by clowns, acrobats, and other circus greats.

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Bibliography
Albrecht, Ernest. The New American Circus. University Press of Florida, 1995.

Croft-Cooke, Rupert, and Peter Cotes. Circus: A World History. Macmillan Publishing Co, Inc., 1976.

Culhane, John. The American Circus: An Illustrated History. Henry Holt and Company, 1990.

Fenner, Mildred Sandison, and Wolcott Fenner. The Circus: Lure and Legend. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970.

Hoh, LaVahn G., and William H. Rough. Step Right Up!: The Adventures of Circus in America. Betterway Publications, 1990.

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NGS Resources
Keeney, Karen. "Utopia on the Wabash: Indiana's Historic New Harmony," National Geographic Traveler (Spring 1986), 111-17.

Thom, James. "Indiana's Self-reliant Uplanders," National Geographic (March 1976), 340-63.

Simpich, Frederick. "Indiana Journey," National Geographic (September 1936), 267-320.

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