I had the pleasure and honor of meeting one of the founders of AYCO, Rick Davis, in Maine at the AYCO festival this past August at the Circus Conservatory of America. Rick passed away earlier this month from a brain tumor, but even though in August he was in his last few weeks with us, his family was determined to visit the festival. I was so inspired by the outpouring of love at the festival for him and his family, and it was something that was simply amazing to watch and be a part of. So for my blog post, I decided to ask some people who were close to Rick about their favorite memories of him.
Rick was the sort of guy who could captivate a room instantly, just by the sparkle in his eyes. During Jen Agan’s time working with him at the Silver Lining Circus Camp in Temple, NH, she was amazed at how he “effortlessly guided [the children’s] enthusiasm toward the activity at hand, reveling in their energy and having just as much fun as they were.” Even at the end of a long day working with endlessly active 5-8 year olds, Rick was glowing. Jen said, “I think that ability to maintain his childlike sense of fun, that twinkle in his eye that made children (and everyone else!) want to follow him, was one of his most unique characteristics and a key part of his magic.” Jen met him when she was in kindergarten, and remembers him to have been simply magical. One of Rick’s favorite things was to teach “Totally Useless Skills,” (which I will go into more detail on later) and these would “constantly go viral through the school, and you would see kids on the playground trying them out and teaching their friends.”
Rick also had a knack for making every single person he met feel welcome, wherever they were. Zoe Brookes met him at the AYCO Educators Conference in 2008, halfway across the country from her New Jersey home, knowing no one. Rick was the first person she met, and he hugged her, beamed at her and called her by name. He made sure she had her meal ticket and was ready for the conference. How welcoming he was is something Zoe remembers most about Rick.
Rick was also full of surprises. He once traveled to Africa to go to different villages performing his clown show to learn more about the universals of humor, he was an accomplished Celtic harp player, and he held a degree in philosophy before deciding to try out Ringling’s Clown College.
The Totally Useless Skill Share was something I heard about in Maine for the first time. On the day Rick visited the festival, I had absolutely no knowledge of who he was but had heard earlier in the day that the skill share was planned for free time that day. As soon as Rick entered the room where my last workshop of the day was being held, I was fascinated by his presence–even though he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t talk. I don’t know what it was that drew me to him, but I spoke to him about how thankful I am that he helped create the amazingness that is AYCO.
After people spoke to Rick and his family we did the Totally Useless Skill Share–which is exactly what it sounds like. A ton of people gathered in a circle and learned things like fingers gymnastics and how to make one of your arms look shorter than the other. The room was filled with laughter, and even Rick had a smile on his face as he watched everyone learning. Rick’s amazing wife, Jackie, pushed his wheelchair around the circle of people so that everyone could shake Rick’s hand, and later their whole family attended the showcase, where we sang Rick’s favorite song for him–This Little Light of Mine.
While the entire festival was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life so far, I was incredibly moved by the outpouring of love for Rick and his family. In those short hours, he made an incredible impact on me and on so many other people.