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Shoestring Circus raises big top in Bellingham

The homegrown circus puts up a tent and puts on a show. #k5evening

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — There's something about a circus. And a group of circus artists in Bellingham just took the ultimate leap of faith and gave theirs a semi-permanent home in a glorious new-used tent.

"It's something we all love,” said Nicole Laumb, one of four circus performers who bought the tent from Flynn Creek Circus in California in 2022.

They call the whole shebang Shoestring Circus and next they’re putting on a show, built literally from the ground up in Bellingham.

"We've all done it for many, many years. So to get the chance to like, own our own tent and make a go at it. It's hard to say no. So took the leap."

Matthew Poki McCorkle is also an owner, a performer, and a tent-putter-upper.

"It's pretty wild to start with just an empty lot, and then to pack everything on trucks and then end up with this,” he said. 

The red-striped tent is decorated with shoes of all shapes and sizes on the outside. Inside at a recent rehearsal, the magic was already taking shape. 

Shoestring Circus co-owner and master of ceremonies Sadye Osterloh put on a mustache and eyebrows to get the show rolling, deftly handling circus ring theatrics while handling her and McCorkle’s 7-month-old son Otis at the same time. 

Aerial artists defied gravity and jugglers played with it. 

Shawnee artist Dr. Stephanie Little Thunder Morphet-Tepp demonstrated grace and power hanging by her hair. She holds a world record for the most weight held by hair: 400 pounds.

"This act is so powerful to me because hair is so special to Indigenous people and holds our memories and our wisdom. It's the literal embodiment of our spirit. And so being able to do feats of strength of my hair, doesn't speak to my hair, but it speaks to the strength of my people,” said Morphet-Tepp.

These circus artists are an extended family. They all help take care of Otis during rehearsal, passing him around and dancing with him occasionally. The happy baby is right at home under the big top.

"Oh, he's already joined the circus,” said Osterloh, who did her aerial act while pregnant with him. “He's been in the circus before he was born!”

Baby Otis has already mastered his first feat of strength – standing tall and proud in his dad’s outstretched hand.

The folks at Shoestring Circus can't wait to invite all to come inside their tent. Because everyone should run away with the circus at least once.

"That's my community. That's my world. So I just chased it. Ran away with the circus. And then bought my own,” said Laumb.

Shoestring Circus has shows from Friday, May 26 through Monday, May 29. For ticket information go to shoestringcircus.com

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