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Northmoreland Park hosts annual Labor United celebration, circus

September 25, 2018 GMT

The thought that a child might one day say they have never seen a circus is not only sad to Willy Waltens, it is what motivates him to embrace the circus life as long as he can.

Waltens retired from performing in 2016 and now continues as routing director for the Zerbini Family Circus, returning to Northmoreland Park for a weekend residence at the annual Labor United Festival on Sept. 2 and 3.

With economics and regulations forcing some circuses out of business, and the final bow of the iconic Ringling Bros. circus in 2017 after 146 years, Waltens is convinced that troupes like the Zerbinis are more important than ever.

“The circus is a part of each and every person that the children of today cannot lose,” he insists. “It is a free and happy place to just have fun. It must live on.”

Exciting festival promised

Labor United is pleased to have the Zerbini Circus back this year, says Brandon Simpson, assistant director of the county parks and recreation department. “This year’s festival is very exciting. We are bringing back a couple attractions that we haven’t had in a while. The Zerbini big top tent show is popular,” he says. “And Lost Creek Railroad is returning with the kids train rides.”

Waltens says the circus enjoys its visits to the festival. “Yes, they have been great to us every year we have performed for them. The audience is very enthusiastic, and everyone has a great time,” he says. “That is a circus, presenting a show that children and adults enjoy and children bring their children back because it was so important in their memory.”

Circus memories

Waltens says the audience will enjoy 60 full minutes of a fast moving performance with aerial acts, great jugglers, ponies, dog, acrobats, camels, “a super amazing quick change act” and a clown with no delays in between each act.

“The Zerbini Family Circus is a very clean, highly managed show, with an excellent performance,” he adds. “How are you going to tell your kids about this type of entertainment, unless they see it? Is there anything live that a kid can see up close, smell the smells, see the actual animals, people up close and for a fraction of what live shows cost today?”

His own family goes back five generations in the industry. “We live this life, it is everything to us and we care with every bone in our body, no matter how old we get, that it continues for the children,” Waltens says. “The parents that bring their kids to the circus just love to see the expression on the child’s face, the smiles and laughs. That is why it is important. The circus makes a family have fun.”

Can’t beat the price

There is a lot that is offered at Labor United and it is “really affordable,” says James Burke, a Westmoreland County parks program coordinator.

“I couldn’t imagine taking my family anywhere else for the weekend, having them experience as much as they can at Labor United Celebration for a better price,” he adds. “Everyone takes pride in this event and continues to push to make it better each and every year.” In addition to the circus and train, there is a petting zoo, many carnival rides and games, a bird show, and concerts both days that always attract many people.

“We often hear families surprised and excited that we offer so much for only a $4 ride pass bracelet,” Burke says. “We pack a lot of attractions into two days,” Simpson says. “I think it has been able to hold the imagination of the public for so long due to the family friendly atmosphere.”

Musical variety

Chuck Blasko and the Vogues, singing their national pop hits, has been a staple at the event since it began 39 years ago. There again is a wide variety of music. Kaelber mix rock, punk, funk and metal. The High Ryder Band plays country. The Townsmen plus One offer a variety of hits from the Big Band era and The Good Guys focus on classic rock. The always popular giant flea market has 140 vendors, including 50 involved in arts and crafts. Bingo is held each day during festival hours.