---- — It’s called the silk cradle. Hanging from a piece of silk cloth, two girls perform acts of acrobatic artistry, twirling and spinning high above the ground. They even dangle from the silk with just their teeth.It sounds dangerous, but the two teenage girls have been practicing since March to master one of the newest acts at this year’s Circus City Festival.Starting Friday, over 230 kids from Miami County will pull off feats of aerial daring and gymnastic artistry during the city's largest and most popular festival that has become Peru's namesake.More than 9,000 people bought tickets to the youth circus last year, and thousands more poured in for rides, games and food set up around the courthouse.More than 1,000 volunteers from the county and all across the country will also help put on the circus and festival this year.“It’s a huge deal,” said festival publicity vice president Brande Brehmer. “This really brings our community together. It’s a love for the kids and the love for the circus.”For the last four months, Miami County kids 7-to-21-years old have practiced three, four and sometimes five days a week to perfect the more than 30 different acts at this year’s circus, including things like the flying trapeze, unicycling and juggling.Brehmer said they’re also bringing back an act from years ago called the lyre. Suspended from the ceiling inside a metal contraption, a single girl uses the device to twirl and flip.“It’s shaped really weird,” Brehmer said. “But she sits inside and does some amazing tricks.”The family-night performance on Friday starts at 7 p.m. Shows also start at 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.This Saturday, all ticket sales will go towards the festival’s scholarship fund, which provides money to senior performers heading off to college.“This is just a way for us to give back,” Brehmer said. “These kids have put in so much hard work and dedication over the years, and we want to help them.”For more circus performances, head out to the International Circus Hall of Fame, 3076 E. Circus Lane, for daily shows at 2 p.m. featuring the internationally famous The Flying Wellendas. Elephants, clowns and dog acts are some other highlights beneath the big top at the hall of fame.“These are going to be some really great shows,” said John Fugate, vice president at the hall of fame and the circus ringmaster.He said the Indianapolis Symphonic Wind Ensemble will also perform 10 a.m. Friday under the big top.When there aren’t circus performances going on, there’s still plenty of things to do all week around Peru.The downtown festival kicks off at 5 p.m. Monday, when rides and vendor stands open. Live bands playing gospel, light rock and other kinds of music will perform every evening at 6 p.m. on the courthouse lawn.People can also ride elephants all week, or watch one of the elephant performances starting at 6 p.m. every evening at the corner of 7th Street and Broadway.“I think people will really learn something about elephants and what it takes to train them,” said festival vice president Kevin Gallahan.For more animal encounters, head to the petting zoo, where kids can take a ride on a pony.The festival ends Saturday with the annual circus parade – the longest running circus parade in the U.S. and second largest parade in Indiana.Thousands will gather at 10 a.m. to watch the procession of authentic circus wagons, clowns, calliopes, wild animals, floats and bands.
Brehemer said after the parade, all the downtown rides will be free until 12:30 p.m.Add it all up – the youth circus, downtown festival and parade – and Brehmer said people can count on a having a great time all week in Peru.“This kind of event doesn’t happen anywhere else,” she said. “It’s a privilege to have this in our town, so come support it and help us keep this going.”
Youth Circus Calendar: Family Night: 7 p.m. Friday: General admission seating - $5 Tickets go on sale the day of show. Regular Performances: Saturday - 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday - 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20 - 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. International Circus Hall of Fame Schedule: July 13 - 21 Noon: Grounds open 12:30 p.m.: Calliope concert 1 p.m.: Elephant encounter 2 p.m.: Big Top Performance Show