I’m fairly certain my daughter will run away with the circus someday. The trapeze artists entrance her. The clowns make her snort-laugh. The jugglers defy physics. The last time we attended the circus, she got pulled up as a volunteer assistant in a magic act. Her eyes blossomed widely. She looked starstruck for a moment as the magician led her to the third circle of the three rings on the floor. Then she snapped into true form and bantered back and forth with the magician. She preened at the audience, and took her assistant duties very seriously.
I fully expect her to leave with a bindle over her shoulder to join the ranks of acrobats and animal tamers any day now. To postpone her inevitable departure, we decided to throw a circus birthday. I’m old-fashioned and like to keep kids birthday parties at home and inexpensive. Without the budget to hire a magician, a petting zoo, or take her entire second grade class to to the circus, I needed to get creative to ringmaster the perfect party.
My daughter and I assigned roles to her guests that we included with the invitation. She assigned roles to her friends based on their talents and likes. The kids with wicked knock-knock jokes fell easily into a clown roles, and her best friend who can land a back handspring ended up an acrobat. We assigned twins the juggler roles and included scarves in their invitation to help them practice. We also included a fortune teller and a strongman. We encouraged everyone to build a short routine. My daughter dressed as a lion tamer and her little brother, the lion. They worked on their act tirelessly, and completely in secret.
We asked everyone to arrive in costume and offered support and a lot of rehearsal time at the start of the party. The kids had fun showing off what they worked on, and learning the talents of their friends. The twins taught everyone how to juggle, we learned how to prat fall from our clowns, and our wee fortune teller told all of our fortunes in grisly detail.
Once the acts were set, we moved on to arts and crafts. I had loaded up on tempera paint, ribbons, and other craft supplies with a great early Black Friday deal and I encouraged the kids to get creative with the supplies. We created the backdrop for the circus on three large panels of newsprint that I hung on the garage and created colorful side stage curtains with ribbons tied to twine and strung high.
I had them help me fill cups with popcorn and trail mix for the audience (and let them each make and eat their own cup before the show). Parents arrived at a set time and we began the show.
At my daughter’s request I assumed the role of ringmaster. You can get a fun striped dress at a good deal like I did with a Torrid coupon, I introduced each act. After having so much fun assembling the show, the kids totally enjoyed hamming it up for laughter and applause. It was so much fun! My kids brought the house down in their lion tamer act at the end, my son proving to be a ferociously cunning cat for my daughter to tame.
At the end we all shared cake and punch and traded stories about our favorite parts of the show. The kids had a great time performing, but they were especially proud of the show because they contributed to all aspects of it. As we settled down after the party, my daughter insisted it was, “The best birthday ever.” When I asked if she still thought she would run away with the circus, she merely smiled and said, “Not if I can have a circus birthday party next year.”