Instead of performing in a traditional big top tent, circus performers took to the Tri Community Center parking lot for a drive-thru circus on Friday, Oct. 30.
Upon entering, drivers were greeted by a juggling stilt walker who waved at passersby and passengers. The lot was filled with a handful of other attractions including an aerialist, a wheel aerialist, a wheel walker and a hula hooper. The event also included Oxford Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) staff, the Oxford Lions Club, the Oxford Community Foundation and the Oxford Service Department.
Instead of a traditional performance, the circus members performed at their own pace. Many of their acts required large equipment. Aerialists hung from a ring several feet above the ground, walked atop the Wheel of Death — a giant metal frame with a wheel attached to either side —and swung on an attached swing. In the fields nearby, children and local residents watched and played.
The event was hosted by OPRD as a COVID-19-friendly alternative to their annual event, Trick or Treat OPRD Style. It was partially funded by a $2,500 grant from the Oxford Community Foundation and a $500 grant from the Oxford Lions Club. For some, the event offered a safe alternative to trick-or-treating during the pandemic — costumes were encouraged and complimentary bags of candy were passed out at the end of the circus.
“We still wanted to serve the community rather than just cancel our event, so we researched some options and the drive-thru circus sounded like the perfect fit,” said Casey Wooddell, director of OPRD. “It was entertaining, socially distanced, free to the community and even provided candy to the kids.”
The Oxford Police Department helped coordinate the event by directing the line of traffic into the parking lot.
“[There were] estimated over 500 cars and over 1,500 people served in three hours,” Wooddell said. “[There was] some minor traffic congestion, but this was handled incredibly well by our outstanding Oxford Police Department.”
Besides the wait, the event lasted approximately five minutes for each car. While not as large or in-depth as an authentic big top performance, the drive-thru event ensured that, even during a pandemic, the circus was still able to come to town.