With circus schools closed and gigs canceled internationally because of COVID-19, Salida Circus training manager Joe Lobeck decided to train outside his Chicago, Illinois, apartment, where he soon attracted attention from numerous passersby and local media.
He practiced about four hours a day for a couple of days on Logan Boulevard. His training included juggling balls, clubs, cigar boxes and hats. He also performed handstands and other contortions on a handmade bar.
Lobeck originally trained outside as a way to isolate himself, but he soon began noticing that he was acting as a good distraction from the intensity of the disease.
After receiving a tip from a neighbor, Chicago publication Block Club Chicago covered him for an article titled “Circus Performer Juggling on Logan Boulevard to Spread Joy During Coronavirus Outbreak” by Mina Bloom, which was posted Monday. He said he was surprised to have been featured because he did not intend to receive media coverage.
Lobeck said he also received an interview request from ABC 7 Chicago, which was “weird” because he just wanted to train outside. As of Wednesday, it had not taken place yet. Although he appreciates the media coverage, he said he is worried the exposure will cause people to criticize him for creating mass gatherings, which he said was not his intention at all.
Multiple families throughout his training period sat in the grass to watch him perform. Self-quarantined neighbors watched him from their windows.
Lobeck estimates that about 100 passerby interacted with him in total, but that includes simple greetings from passing cars. He said he personally met between 10 and 15 people during his performances.
While he in no way supports the effects of the virus, he said he believes nature is taking its course and humbling society. He believes in maintaining “a resilient and indomitable spirit,” having a positive attitude even in times of crisis and choosing a lifestyle that makes others smile.
Although he has been living in Chicago for the last few months to train, he is currently en route to Salida to touch base with family. He has been a Salida resident for five years.
“In a time like this — my family is out there and I think it’s a good idea to be with family, stay inside, do art, do music, do circus – just get in touch with community more,” Lobeck said in his Block Club Chicago interview.
He said he was not surprised Salida Circus closed its 2020 Spring Break Camp considering circuses all over the world were canceling performances.