Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image A group of parents in Grantsville have brought back the First Grade Circus and are looking for donations and volunteers to help.

March 27, 2014
Grantsville mothers join forces to bring back First-Grade Circus

Three Grantsville mothers have banded together to resurrect a beloved local tradition.

Camille Didericksen, Janna Jensen and Hillary Mondragon are rebuilding the First-Grade Circus one tightrope act at a time.

“We were just talking and said, ‘Isn’t it a shame that they’re getting rid of the circus?’” said Mondragon. “I thought it was just a shame that my kids wouldn’t be a part of something that me and my husband and a lot of our friends were involved in.”

The First-Grade Circus, started in 1978 to teach students physical fitness, rhythm, music, dance and other lessons not part of core curriculum, was discontinued in 2012 as part of an effort to focus more on reading programs.

Two mothers of first-grade students, Tiffany Allen and Ashlee Johnson, undertook the task of orchestrating a private circus in 2012, but no circus was held in 2013.

Mondragon said the trio has asked retired first-grade teachers who founded the circus if bringing the town staple back privately would be acceptable, as well as if they could use some of the old props, at least until new ones could be bought or made.

“We kind of wanted their blessing because this was something that was part of their lives for 30-something years,” she said. “They’re giving us use of all of their props and all of the old decorations. They’re actually allowing us to keep some of them, and then hopefully throughout the years, we can buy the extra things we needed so we can have a whole set away from the school.”

Many of those old decorations Mondragon remembers well from her own time performing in the First-Grade Circus. Some are in need of repair or a new coat of paint from decades of use.

Mondragon said the group has been trying to gather donations to help fund those repairs, as well as to purchase a small collection of costumes for first-graders who want to participate but may not be able to afford a costume of their own.

Mondragon said this circus will not be connected with either Grantsville or Willow Elementary School in any way,  but is open to any first-grader living in Grantsville.

“We’re trying to make sure it’s completely not affiliated with the schools at all — we didn’t want to have to jump through those hoops because we were pretty sure we’d get turned down,” she said.

The circus will, however, be practiced and performed in the Grantsville High School gym.

A meeting for parents of first-graders in Grantsville will be held Tuesday, April 1 at 7 p.m. at the Grantsville High School auditorium. Practices for children will begin the next day and will be held every Wednesday and Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. through the performance on May 16.

A small admission fee — probably $1 a head — will be charged to help fund next year’s circus, Mondragon said.

Mondragon said besides having to live in Grantsville, the only requirement for participants is that they attend at least 75 percent of rehearsals.

“We’re just kind of anticipating there’s going to be a big roadblock, but so far everybody’s been helpful. I think they needed someone to jumpstart it,” she said. “I think for us to start it, it’s more kind of from the heart because it’s something that we all participated in and something we all loved and something we didn’t want to see go. So far everybody’s been super-duper supportive.”

Mondragon said anyone wanting more information on the circus, or who wants to volunteer or donate, may contact her at 435-884-0616. A gofundme account has also been created to accept donations at gofundme.com/7kd3s0. 

Lisa Christensen

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Lisa covers primarily crime and courts, military affairs, Stansbury Park government and transportation issues. She is a graduate of Utah State University, where she double-majored in journalism and music, and Grantsville High School.

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