Born in the 47th Ward, Midnight Circus celebrates a dozen years!
Thanks to Jeff Jenkins, Founder & Artistic Director, Midnight Circus
Jeff Jenkins and Julie Greenberg were spending time in Welles Park with their one-year- old son Maxwell, like they did most days, when they learned of the ongoing fundraising efforts to help rebuild the playground.
As longtime 47th Ward residents, civic-minded Chicagoans and brand new parents who cherished their local park, they felt compelled to help.
They approached then Alderman Gene Schulter, Welles Park Supervisor Becky Kliber, and the dedicated volunteers of the Welles Park Advisory Council with an idea that was a bit outside the box.
Midnight Circus, the critically acclaimed arts organization the couple had founded years ago would be the vehicle to bring the community together to raise funds for the playground. Jeff and Julie also believed that families coming together to see a circus in their local park would be a unique bonding experience for folks in the community.
It was a bold idea to create a partnership like this; acrobats and artists, concerned parents, volunteers, park district staff and the Alderman’s team all coming together for the greater good.
As show time neared, all involved were eager and nervous to say the least. None more than the circus founders Jeff and Julie, two anxious parents who dreamed of bringing their neighbors together, in their park, to create a powerful sense of community and have a lasting positive impact.
Would the community respond? Would they come together in their park and celebrate the circus and each other?
As if on cue, hundreds of families from all directions descended on Welles Park to see the circus. That opening weekend far surpassed everyone’s expectations and raised more money than ever imagined to help build that new playground.
According to Jeff and Julie “The mission was to bring our community together, raise awareness and funds for the rebuilding efforts, and of course to inspire folks, particularly kids, to chase their dreams by seeing a world class theatrical circus right in their own park!”
After a dozen years, and with wonderful community partners and volunteers all across Chicago, they have accomplished that initial task and so much more.
“Midnight Circus in the Parks” (MCITP) is the official name of this non-profit community building arts organization. MCITP has been so successful they helped set the template for what has become the City of Chicago’s Night Out in the Parks initiative. The circus has raised over $250,00 for 47th Ward Parks so far and raised nearly a million dollars to date for parks all across Chicago. Each year the circus plays to 15,000 Chicagoans from Englewood and Roseland on the south side, to Garfield Park on the west side, and all the way up north to Oriole Park.
The program has grown immensely since that first grass-roots effort. Now, instead of performing in the open air, they set up their magical purple and blue Little Big Top in a new park each weekend during the late summer and fall.
Over the years there has been a lot of growth and change, but one thing has stayed the same…Midnight Circus in the Parks wraps up the tour with sold out shows right where it all began…Welles Park in the 47th Ward!
Here’s to a dozen more years of Community Building, Fundraising, and Bringing Circus to the People!