My Life in Circus

My name is Andrew and I live in Southern California.  I am 16 years of age and I live, eat, and breathe circus.  I train in teeterboard, high wire, unicycle, juggling, clowning, silks, Chinese pole, and stilts. I’m also currently performing stilts at the San Diego Zoo for the summer.  I’m pretty new to this whole blogging thing, but I thought that I might as well give it a shot.  That’s enough about myself, for now – what I really want to do is tell you about the circus I am involved with, The Great All American Youth Circus.
Trevor + Andrew Sit

That’s me on the top and friend Trevor on the bottom. (Photo by Jenna Lowery)

ATK Wire Escape

That’s me walking high wire at an event on Halloween. Photo by Insomniac Events

Within the small town of Redlands is a tightly knit community of people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds which all revolves around one thing, The Great All American Youth Circus.  Founded in 1929 by a former Ringling Brothers performer, Roy Coble, the Great All American Youth Circus was a youth circus before youth circus was even a thing.  The program began out of the neighborhood YMCA, then moved to a community park and outdoor amphitheater and has since migrated back into the same YMCA where classes are held and shows are performed.  The Great All American Youth Circus just finished its 76th performing year (the numbers don’t line up because the circus paused for WWII and had a few dark year during transitions).
The long history of this youth circus is not the only thing that makes it special, it’s the people who are involved.  What many non-circusers in my town don’t understand is that the Great All American Youth Circus isn’t just 300+ weirdos who play with lions in their spare time (“What?! You’re in a circus? Do you have lions?”), it’s a group of 300+ loving family members.  Our current director, Tanner Greenhalgh, who grew up in the program, is able to see through the eye of a youth circus performer and understands what is going on in the mind of the youth circus performer. Also, the trainers aren’t paid, they are strictly volunteers, so everybody who is there wants to be there. This allows for tighter knit relationships between the trainer and the performer, therefore making an easier and more effective learning experience. Because one is able to start at the young age of 3, they grow up with the same people by their sides up until college when some of them sadly move away and others continue as performers or trainers. This is the best kind of circus family.

Most of my school friends have a hard time fathoming the little amounts of free time that is allowed in my day. My typical weekday begins with school at around 7, then homework, then soccer and circus, ending at around 9:30 or 10.  Circus has made my life too busy too “hang out”, however I have gained a family in doing so.

I’ve been involved involved in the Great All American Youth Circus since my older brothers joined when I was just a year old. At 3 years old I was able to join, so my parents enrolled me. At first, circus wasn’t my top priority.  Overachieving in school and playing soccer were what most of my focus was on, but I was always involved in circus. However, in the past couple of years, I have started to take it more seriously. Getting in shape, focusing on certain skills, etc, and I have fallen in love. The people, the places, the shows, everything, I love it all.

Chines Pole Family

From top to bottom is William, Charles, Me, Phillip, and Elizabeth (My siblings). Photo by Mark Keidel.

– Andrew

3 comments

  1. I’m so glad to read this post, Andrew. The Great Y is such a historical organization — I’ve wanted to visit for some time and hope to get out there soon (though I’m on the east coast so it’ll take some doing!) Still — I appreciated your insider view of your circus family. It sounds amazing and you’re lucky to be part of it.

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