One of the spectacles of the Renton River Days festival is the Wenatchee Youth Circus, a traveling group in Washington state. But attendees may not know one of the circus members is a Renton teenager.
Olivia McPherson, 16 year old at Hazen High School, has been with the circus for three years. She was inspired after seeing them perform each year at River Days.
Every year she would joke about joining, until they did it for real. She said it was because she was older and had time to travel to Wenatchee. In the spring, she’s up in Wenatchee almost every weekend training.
“It’s an intense time commitment,” her father, Kevin McPherson, said.
She has best friends up there as well, whom she met through the circus.
Before this, she took trapeze lessons at Emerald City Trapeze, but it wasn’t as often as the practice is now. Olivia mostly does aerial tricks and flying trapeze at the circus, she said.
With all the practice and background in gymnastics, she was able to quickly get into aerials. Other kids usually start at the circus without these skills and learn during their time there.
Before the trapeze act she looks down, 30 feet below, at the crowd. She grips the bar and feels nervous, until she jumps.
Once she’s in the air, flying, she isn’t nervous. Time slows down, and then she lets go of the bar and gets caught by the catcher, who is another close friend.
Olivia said the first performance was intimidating, but surreal, because everyone is so close, parents volunteer to set up the circus, and it’s a big family.
“It’s just something crazy, like a circus. It’s a real circus,” Olivia said.
She’s not the farthest circus member, she knows two girls who come over from Atlanta, Georgia and a few from the King County area, but most of the circus lives in Wenatchee, she said.
Another circus member named Jessica, from Edmonds, was also inspired after seeing the show, Olivia said.
She remembers being at the outside looking in at the circus when it would come to Renton; wondering how it worked so fast and what goes into a performance. But now she gets to perform at River Days, and see her local friends watching her from the audience.
“It’s a special feeling. People we know, families who’ve come to the circus just as we did are all out there, and now there’s a little something special about (the circus) because Olivia is in it,” Kevin said.
The Wenatchee Youth Circus is in its 67th performance season. Catch them at Renton River Days at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday, July 26, and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at Cedar River Park. Tickets for the River Days performances are $3 for youth, $5 for adults.
More information is at wenatcheeyouthcircus.com or rentonriverdays.org.