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Circus Tricks, Acrobatics Pull into Harbor at Historic Ship Festival

By DNAinfo Staff on July 1, 2012 5:13pm  | Updated on July 1, 2012 5:14pm

David Sharps performs at the fourth annual North River Historic Ship Festival on July 1st, 2012
David Sharps performs at the fourth annual North River Historic Ship Festival on July 1st, 2012
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

TRIBECA — If you thought balancing a giant Chinese vase on your head was hard, try doing it on a boat. 

The four-day North River Historic Ship Festival ended on Sunday with music, acrobatics and laughter at the festival's "Showboat Circus" on the Lehigh Valley No. 79, a barge parked at Pier 25 in the Hudson River Park.

David Sharps, 55, known to his audience of children and grown-ups as Captain Sharpe, stood on a makeshift stage in the barge, tossing a ceramic Chinese vase in the air, then balancing the delicate vessel atop his head as parents and kids clapped and cheered.

Sharps bought the barge in 1985 for $1 and has since been traveling to spots like Hoboken, N.J., the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Cold Spring, N.Y., specializing in family entertainment. It was one of several boats featured in the festival, which offers free tours of historic ships, including a tugboat, a fireboat and a historic lighthouse tender.

"We want people to take a trip back in time," said Sharps, about his show in the wooden barge, which is decorated with vintage nautical equipment and portraits of historic ships. "Hopefully it gives them a chance to stop out of their normal daily life."

The show was a family-oriented affair in more ways than one. Sharps' daughter, Sophie, 17, balanced skillfully on a suspended swing while the barge rocked from side to side in the gentle Hudson waters. Kids cheered excitedly for the young acrobat as she performed to Adele's "Someone Like You."

Mom Chana Paris attended the show with her three young children.

"Which was the funniest part of the show?," Paris asked her 5-year-old daughter. While the child kept silent, her son Shmuly Paris, 7, chimed in with his answer. "The guy with the ball!," said Shumy, referring to a performance by juggler Will Shaw, who balanced a ball-like top on his hand and head. 

Other events at the festival included free rides on the vintage boats. Betsy Frawley Haggerty, the festival manager, said the festival serves as a reminder of the historical value of the city's harbor.

"The heritage of New York City is in its waterfront," Haggerty said.