The marvelous mix of acts at the inaugural season of the Windy City Circus enthralls guests in a breathtaking display of talent including death-defying feats and vaudevillian vignettes that tap into stories of Chicago history. During two mesmerizing hours, charming Master of Ceremonies David Michael Maas directs the spotlight toward acts such as aerial artists flying from trapezes, horses galloping and neighing around the ring, and sensational jugglers lobbing and catching as many as five torch-wielding rabid piranhas. The inspiring spectacles aim to entertain and educate by depicting history's most interesting and most mustached Chicagoans as the emcee and his talented troupe weave a rousing tale of the city by the lake.
CircEsteem unites youth from a litany of locations, building confidence through the aerial arts, juggling, and more. The 10th annual performance re-creates old-time entertainment for new audiences, similar to nostalgic jousting or powdered-wig pageants. General-admission tickets allow spectators to roam the big top and freely select their own seats. Each production spans multiple acts, featuring feats of fancy such as clowning, gym-wheel performances, acrobatics, and frozen fire eating. Performers' ages range from 6 to 18, and their origins include Togo, Mexico, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Chicago's Uptown and Rogers Park neighborhoods.
Originally part of architect Daniel Burnham's ambitious "Plan of Chicago" drafted in 1909, Navy Pier was designed to handle both recreational and freight traffic for the burgeoning metropolis. Its role quickly changed when it began serving as a barracks and training facility during two World Wars—it earned its nickname because of the more than 200 planes that littered the lake bottom around the pier, lost during exercises and sunk to intimidate fish with military technology. In the decades that followed, the pier was home to a University of Illinois campus, a convention center, and a venue for citywide festivals before falling into disuse. This ended in 1989, when the state moved to transform the venerable pier into one of Chicago's foremost tourist attractions.
Reopened in 1995, the revamped Navy Pier boasts 50 acres of parks, restaurants, shops, and entertainment, scenically located along Lake Michigan and the mouth of the Chicago River. The pier's most striking denizen is its 150-foot tall ferris wheel, whose glittering lights slowly rotate above the water and frame a beautiful view of the city's skyscrapers for riders. Other attractions include a towering IMAX screen that shows educational films and Hollywood blockbusters, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which treats audiences to bold stagings of the Bard's greatest hits.