Circus Club entertaining for decades
Performers with Maine East High School's Circus Club pose for a photograph during rehearsals at the Park Ridge school. | Contributed photo
Updated: December 23, 2012 6:20AM
Big-top fun and excitement fills Maine East High School in Park Ridge during performances of the school’s Circus Club.
Through the 1970s and ’80s, the Maine East Circus Club put on lengthy shows similar to the Ringling Brothers — complete with a trapeze, trampolines and the glamorous outfits.
Decades later, the Circus Club is still going. Today, the club is composed of about 40 students who perform at the annual Variety Show and Homecoming assembly. This year, the club features a freshman who is a contortionist.
Betty Axelson-McClelland, leader of the Circus Club, said that in the earlier years there weren’t as many athletic opportunities for girls so they had more time to hold practices and put on bigger shows. Today’s Circus Club performances consist of tumbling stunts, vaulting, Acromaniacs and more.
Anne Kaczkowski , a senior at Maine East, has been a member of the Circus Club since her freshman year.
“I like performing at the Homecoming assembly,” said Kaczkowski, whose peers cheer as Circus Club members do tumbling tricks using the springboard and flip over mats that are stacked high during the Acromaniacs’ act.
Kaczkowski said she enjoys dressing up in “wigs and crazy pants and goofy mismatched clothing” during the Acromaniacs’ act.
Kaczkowski, a Maine East gymnast, said one of her most memorable experiences with the Circus Club was going to Chicago to learn how to do a trapeze act from professionals.
Axelson-McClelland said the Circus Club not only offers a fun way to gain physical fitness but that the practices teach teamwork.
“For some kids, it helps their self-confidence,” she added.
Axelson-McClelland said that club members have varying degrees of gymnastics training and range from beginners to competitive.
“They get to experience things that they never would get to do,” Axelson-McClelland said.
Maine East Asssistant Principal Dino DiLegge said that Circus Club allows kids to be active in a safe environment.
“The driving force is Betty Axelson,” said DiLegge about the success of the Circus Club. He noted Axelson is an Illinois Hall of Fame gymnastics coach. “Betty’s the Mt. Rushmore of gymnastics in Illinois.”
DiLegge added that Circus Club has attracted a lot of kids that otherwise may not have have participated in an extracurricular activity.