Gamma Phi Circus

Day 3

Gamma Phi Circus is the oldest collegiate  circus in the United States and maybe the world. It is an amazing organization that I will never forget and super glad that I went to the first practice when I saw it posted around campus at Illinois State University. After leaving my small town as the superintendent’s daughter the circus is just what I needed.  If you have ever been to a circus that is exactly what Gamma Phi is but without animals and it is made up of all college students or staff from Illinois State.  I had first heard about it because my mom had been in it when she went to Illinois State. While she was in it they had a real band play the music for the acts and her and a good friend twirled their batons and fire batons for it. 

I knew all this, but we had never actually gone to a show growing up. I walked into Horton Field House and was in aww. They had the gym set up with a gymnastics floor, robes hanging, a trapeze, a trampoline, some big wheels called gym wheels and tetterboards. It was overwhelming and fun at the same time. I told the coach there that I was a baton twirler and would love to twirl fire batons. He said that was no longer an act, but if I made the circus in another act that he would love to have me in the show.  I then tried several acts. I loved the Spanish Web and thought it was so much fun spinning from my hand way up high. The trouble was they also spin from their leg and I had hurt my knee in high school basketball and had to wear a brace for it so I didn’t think hanging and spinning from it was a great idea. I thought walking the rest of my life might be better, but it is one decision that I sometimes wish I would have just not been practical and gone for it. So I tried out for clowns and fire eating. I really thought my mom would not mind the fire eating part since I had twirled fire batons with her at a young age. Well, I was wrong about that, but I did make both acts!! That also meant I would be able to twirl my fire batons for the show. 

So that is what I ended up doing for all four years of my college years. I clowned around as “Frenchie” the clown, ate and twirled fire. I became the clown act captain and the fire eating act captain.  I can now say that I can eat fire, ride a super small bike and walk on stilts. I met some of the greatest people I have ever known in the circus. One of those I happened to meet while teaching him to eat fire and he became my husband. All four shows were amazing to be a part of and my entire family and tons of friends would come to watch. It was really fun when my mom and her friend she had in the circus would cheer me on. My kids now love the years we can get back to the show in April and then hang out with our friends after. Some of them already have their own kids in the circus!  It also doesn’t hurt that a friend that stayed in Normal to live made his silo into a giant climbing wall and has huge rectangular trampolines and a trapeze in his backyard, not to mention the 4 wheelers and things.  The show is always in April!!

2 thoughts on “Gamma Phi Circus

  1. What a fascinating college experience and tradition. It is certainly a richer experience than the usual sorority/fraternity drinking fest that goes on at some universities. Thanks for sharing–it made me wish we had a circus at my university.

  2. I loved reading this and finding out about all your other “talents” I went to ISU and remember the circus but never tried out! How cool that you followed in your mom’s footsteps and still watch and support the circus today. Maybe one day of of your kids will do the same!

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