By Chesley Oxendine
Fort Gibson got a taste of the big tent’s lights, sounds and popcorn Friday night when the Santa Claus Holiday Circus came to town — courtesy of American Legion Post 20.
Set up inside Fort Gibson High School’s old gymnasium, the circus put on a set of acts specifically geared for smaller locales. Performers included everyone from plate spinners to a group of coordinated poodles, all dressed in vivid outfits.
The circus’ antics earned raucous laughter from a crowd of more than 100 people. Between acts, guests were encouraged to enjoy cotton candy and souvenirs from a concession stand that filled the small gym with the smell of popcorn.
Some of the visitors even got in on the fun, like Fort Gibson resident Libby Matthews, who ended up dancing with famous Christmas character the Grinch during an intermission.
Matthews said even though it was her children that convinced her to come at first, she enjoyed herself.
“I came for my kids, but this was really good,” she said. “I had a good night.”
10-year-old Addison McCutcheon also joined in on the action when clown Kyle Mathews made a show of checking her arm muscles, then hanging a huge yellow coat from one of her biceps.
“I was kind of nervous,” she said. “I didn’t know what he was going to do.”
Despite her impromptu circus performance, however, McCutcheon said the night turned out well.
“I really liked the little horse they brought out,” she said. “I had a great time.”
It was a “great time” that fellow resident Charlotte Smith thought Fort Gibson should have more of.
“This is really good entertainment for this place,” Smith said. “It’s nice clean fun for the kids and good for the town. We ought to have things like this more often.”
That’s what the American Legion concluded as well, according to Post Commander Tim Smith.
“I got lucky one day and got a phone call from their promoter,” he said. “They called me after calling other non-profits in the area and I took the bait and said let’s see what happens.”
The most crucial aspect of bringing a circus to Fort Gibson was giving the residents something fresh, Smith said.
“The most important thing out of it for me is bringing something new to the community,” he said. “We’ve had very little activities like this come to town, so we were excited for something like this to come here.”
His favorite part, however, was seeing 15 residents of Fort Gibson Nursing Home escorted to the event.
“I loved that. I loved that they got to come out and see this,” Smith said.
Potential visitors may have a circus next year too, if the Legion has anything to say about it, he said.
“We had a good time,” Smith said. “We want them to come back and do it again next year.”