Kennesaw Charter Principal Kay Frey said the late Coach Jay Ingram asked her to attend a performance of Circus of the Kids in the Atlanta area last fall.
“I thought it was just going to be really cheesy and that it would be little kids being little kids,” she said. “Well, it was amazing. Within 20 minutes of the show, we knew we had to do it.”
Ingram booked the circus to come to their school at a cost of around $3,000, but died in late January after being hit by an SUV during his morning jog.
“I contacted the (circus) owner and told them, ‘I can’t do this without Coach,’ but they said they were going to do it and dedicate it to him,” she said.
Circus of the Kids, which was founded in Tallahassee, Fla., in 1979 as a circus arts instructional program for children, moved their equipment into the Kennesaw Charter gymnasium on Sept. 3, and school families are hosting 12 performers.
“They turned our whole gym into a circus,” Frey said. “They rigged the trapezes into the ceiling.”
Students auditioned for the show on Sept. 6 and started rehearsing the next day. They are learning how to walk on a high wire, tumble, create a pyramid while riding bikes, swing on the trapeze and balance on globes.
“It’s not just little baby stuff, it’s serious,” Frey said. “It’s all about teaching self-confidence and teamwork. I don’t think I’ve sat through one practice without crying.”
Frey isn’t the only one who’s been surprised by the children’s hard work and dedication.
Temekia McFarlan, whose 7-year-old daughter, Alyssa, is playing a part in the skating act of the show, said it’s been exciting to see her daughter blossom on the circus stage.
“(Alyssa) was a little nervous before she got there, but once she was there, she was comfortable and eager to do the tricks,” she said.
Second-grade teacher Kym Rich said both of her sons are tired from practicing six days a week.
“They’re sore, but they don’t complain because they are so excited,” she said.
Her son Christian, 11, is performing in the teeterboard act.
“An adult jumps on the high end of the teeter and Christian does a backwards flip and ends up in a chair. He also does a flip through a hula-hoop,” she said.
Her other son, Nicholas, a 9-year-old fourth-grader, does a jump rope act.
“I’m just extremely impressed with the whole thing,” she said. “The trainers have been phenomenal. They are great with the kids, more so than I thought.”
Kimberly Ruch said she was a little hesitant to allow her 8-year-old son, Ethan, to participate because he has some muscle weakness in his hands, which affects his balance, but she said it’s been a great addition to his occupational therapy.
“For him to climb to the top of the pyramid and ride on some guy’s shoulders on a bicycle is amazing,” she said.
She’s also enjoyed watching her third-grader become friends with children of all ages.
“He wouldn’t have crossed paths with a sixth-grader before,” she said.
The shows, which will be in the school’s gymnasium at 3010 Cobb Parkway in Kennesaw, kick off tonight at 7 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. show on Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. shows on Saturday, and a 2 p.m. on performance Sunday.
Tickets are $9 for children and $16 for an adult. Each advance adult ticket purchase comes with two free child tickets.
“We are trying to make this a big event,” Frey said. “It’s the last thing that Coach didn’t get to see finish … the circus was like his big mission. We’re trying really hard to dedicate this whole thing to him.”