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Midnight Circus in the Parks Will Hit South Side Sites for the First Time

By Wendell Hutson | July 25, 2013 6:30am
 A North Side circus is set to tour 11 Chicago parks beginning Aug. 17, including on the South Side at parks in Grand Crossing and Englewood.
Circus in the Parks
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CHICAGO — For the first time, a local circus tour will make its way to Grand Crossing and Ogden Parks on the South Side.

In all, the Midnight Circus in the Parks will tour 11 parks from the South Side to the North Side, but will do so without traditional animals like lions, elephants and horses.

"Our circus does not use 'non-companion' animals normally seen at the circus. Believe it or not, a circus can be a success without the use of wild animals," said Jeff Jenkins, who runs the organization with his wife Julie out of their Lincoln Square home. "Then there is June Bug, a [female] pit bull I rescued from dog fighting. She can do anything you ask her to do."

The summer tour begins Saturday, Aug. 17 at the Grand Crossing Park, 7655 S. Ingleside Ave., and ends Sunday, Oct. 27 at Welles Park, 2333 W. Sunnyside Ave.

Tickets for shows at Grand Crossing, Ogden, Garfield and Douglas parks are $5. Admission for the remaining seven parks — Hamlin, Holstein, Mt. Greenwood, Independence, Commercial, Margate and Welles — is $15 for children and $20 for adults.

"The price was reduced for some parks because this is the first time the circus has performed there, and I wanted to make sure everyone has an opportunity to attend," Jenkins said.

All proceeds raised from ticket sales will be split evenly among the 11 parks for improvements to those parks, said Marta Juaniza, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District.

"The Park Advisory Councils for those parks will decide what improvements are needed and then use the money toward it," Juaniza said.

Cece Edwards, president of the Grand Crossing Park Advisory, and said she hopes to use proceeds from the circus to buy new athletic equipment.

"The kids need new baseball and football gear," said Edwards, a Grand Crossing resident for 40 years. "I lobbied hard to get the circus to come to Grand Crossing. 'Our' kids lack family entertainment and I wanted them to have something fun to go to this summer."

Jenkins, who previously performed as a clown in several circuses including Ringling Bros., got the idea to start a local circus in 1995 when he and other residents were trying to raise money to build a new playground at Welles Park.

"That is where the first circus took place. It was a huge success and from that point I started an organization to keep the circus going," Jenkins said. "The tours started in 2007 and has taken off beyond my wildest imagination."

Jenkins said 16,000 people attended the tour last year at seven parks, which averaged $20,000 per show. He estimates that up to 500 people per show could fit in the tent used for the shows.

The 46-year-old North Side resident performs regularly in the circus with his wife, 8-year-old son Max and 5-year-old daughter Samantha.

"A circus is supposed to be a family event. That is why we all perform. Not to mention it is something we all love doing," Jenkins said. "I have the best job around. I get to bring smiles to the faces of children and adults."