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This year’s kindergarten circus — a 39-year tradition at Houston Elementary School — will have a special component this year thanks to the work of a local teacher and the deadline to participate is fast approaching.

The circus features students dressed in the role of animals and entertainers. The project was first undertaken as a classroom project in 1983, expanded to the gymnasium and in later years to the Emmett Kelly Clown Festival.

This year, kindergarten teacher Veronica Douglas is seeking to assemble pictures of kindergarten students who performed over the years. The photographs will be featured as part of this year’s performance by students. It will be shown as attendees arrive and are seated.

Douglas asked that persons either scan a copy of past circus performers or take a picture of them with their phones and send it to her at vdouglas@houston.k12.mo.us

The deadline to respond is April 1.

How the circus started

The kindergarten circus dates to the early 1980s when teacher Sharon Overstreet started it as part of a classroom project for the end of the school year. It allowed her students to practice working together, follow directions, memorize and perform a sequence of moves.

Peggy Holder joined the faculty and soon the performance expanded with classes working together and performing for parents, grandparents and other friends and relatives at the gym. Other teachers, including Le Ann Edington, joined the faculty and helped grow the project.

Holder remembers the late Dr. Gerald St. John asking teachers if they would expand the circus to the Emmett Kelly Clown Festival. “The first year we performed at the park which was quite the challenge with four sections of kindergarten,” recalls Holder. “After that it moved to the high school gym.”

“I have found the former kindergarteners may remember nothing of the classroom activities, but can always remember what they were in the circus.

Retired teacher Peggy holder

Holder said the circus has special memories for those involved. “I have found the former kindergarteners may remember nothing of the classroom activities, but can always remember what they were in the circus. We started with recorded music for first years, but then the elementary music teacher said she could teach them songs for ‘live’ music,” Holder said.

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