Monday, November 14, 2011

My Family was in the Circus!

 posted by Melissa Baumgart
I got an email from my Mom the other day after she read my post on my aerial class.
It read:  "Melissa, don't forget you have a cousin by marriage that worked the in circus, he was one of the Wallenda Family Tightrope walking human paramid, I beleive Eddy Harrigan was the lead guy."  
The Wallenda Family?  Holy Cow!  I  had just heard about them on the Circus documentary I was watching the night before I received this email.  As it is with all the claims of my family's history of heroics, like on my Dad's side with a Congressional Medal of Honor from the Civil War or pirates in my blood, I was a bit skeptical.  (Those both proved to also true, by the way)

Ed Harrigan (far left) leading the seven-man-pryamid.
I immediately googled "Ed Harrigan Wallenda Family."  The first link I clicked on was an article written by someone else that was related to Ed Harrigan, Mackenzie McAninch.  Turns out he is his great uncle.  He wrote a very thorough article, with information he gleaned form a phone interview with Ed, all about his experience with the Wallendas and the circus.  Sure enough, my Mom was correct, and it was fun to see that most of the comments left on Mackenzie's blog were from family members I know personally.

I learned that Ed Harrigan, my mom's cousin by marriage, joined the circus in Wheeling, WV (just across the river my hometown of Bridgeport, OH) when he was about 14 years old.  He worked the ground crew and after trying the high wire after hours, without permission, he eventually gained some tutelage from Karl Wallenda, the leader of the Wallenda family at the time.

Ed, at the age of 17, went to Oklahoma to train with the Wallenda's.  By the time he was 19, he was working on a three man pyramid across the tightrope high wire.  After only months of training and leading the three man pyramid, Ed began to lead the seven man pyramid!   He even got to perform this act on the Ed Sullivan Show.

In his blog post, Mackenzie quoted Ed as remembering leading that pyramid by saying, "Oh, it’s a lot of weight! You wouldn’t believe that weight on your shoulders! You have to walk really slowly and when you hit the pause point in the middle, we all would spread our feet a little more to get a better stance. That trick probably lasts about seven to ten minutes."

Wow, I can't even imagine!  Thanks, Mackenzie, for your amazing and well written piece on this inspiring member of my family.  And thanks for letting me quote your article and share the photos you found.  I encourage you all to check out his post.  

Off to sign up for that trapeze class.  I promise, I will do it before the month's end.

This also makes me think:  I wonder what I will be remembered for?  I wonder if, when I am old, what will younger generations be inspired by through my life?  It is that kind of question that keeps me inspired to keep trying new things at time.  That keeps my forging forward to make something good of my life for the sake of others.  What do you want to be remembered for?  And if you aren't doing that thing now...what are you waiting for????



Amy Baranski said...

Pretty cool Melissa!

Bob Redmond said...

Fabulous. And now Lily may be joining the tradition!