Peru, Ind. - We took an 80 mile road trip for this week's Your Town Friday!
Hailey Ewer, a 17-year-old from Peru, Indiana in Miami County asked us to visit the "Circus Capital of the World" and so we did!
Dating back to the late 1800's, many famous circuses like Ringling Brothers wintered in Peru. The winter quarters began to be phased out in the 1930's.
Today, summertime is circus season for the more than 11,000 people in Peru. The third week of every July is the Peru Amateur Circus.
This year 160 local kids ages 7-21 are performing circus acts. They've been practicing two hours a day since March and the run of shows starts Saturday. Some of the proceeds go to scholarships for the seniors.
In 1973, a scholarship fund was established to help performers with their college careers. Since the inception of this program, the circus has awarded 898 scholarships totaling more than $440,000.
This is the 59th year for the Peru Amateur Circus and Tom Gustin has been here since day one.
"That was back in 1960 and as a member of the city work force, I helped put the tent up!" said Gustin. "We put all the stakes in, got everything laid out nicely and then the guy says, “OK on 3," and he counted and it just went right up. It was a neat thing watching that happen!"
Gustin's eyes light up now just like they did back then.
Performances were held in a tent until 1968 when the show moved inside the permanent three-ring building near the center of town. The popular circus museum, ticket and general offices, and souvenir shop are also located in the building.
"Mr. Noble was my teacher in high school and he organized the first band."
Gustin started playing the accordion when he was five, then moved on to the trombone and spent most of his career teaching music at the local high school. He left for a short time, touring on the road.
"I had missed those kids. I miss those kids now. I’ve been retired 14 years but I guess being here really helps!"
Gustin is used to the reaction he gets when he tells people his town's specialty.
"I’ll say it’s the Circus Capital of the World and they’ll say, 'What do you mean?!' And then I explain to them, well, the circus used to winter quarter there and the Circus Hall of Fame is there now."
As Gustin sits in his band chair, his favorite act is the beginner tumblers. And watching the adult trainers is a treat for him, too.
"I remember them when they were doing acts in here. The guy there in the blue shirt, I can remember the first time I saw him up there, he scared me to death. I’m afraid of heights. I saw him fly and he did some things that scared the… well, I almost had to go change my clothes, it was so great!"
Click here for the full schedule of shows and events. The parade is July 21st at 10 a.m.
If you'd like us to visit your town for Your Town Friday, let us know here!