As Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations began a show Saturday afternoon at the Surry County Agricultural Fair, a familiar warning resounded from a loudspeaker: Don’t try this at home.
The reason for that soon became clear as the performing team launched into its seemingly non-stop act featuring high-flying aerial stunts, speed juggling, trampoline acrobatics and other maneuvers that thrilled a crowd of spectators fixated on every move.
Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations, made up of a family of five, is appearing at the 70th-annual fair for the first time and is proving to be a big hit at the event.
“They are fantastic,” said Katherine Thorpe, who is co-chairing the fair at Veterans Memorial Park which began Thursday and will end Monday night. Thorpe agreed that the circus-style acrobatic troupe has been a highlight at this year’s fair, which also includes a wide array of midway rides and games.
But that might be expected from a group that is not exactly your typical family, one that truly has performing in its blood.
Mentioning that they have been doing so “all our lives,” Shane Hansen, who is in his early 40s, said during an interview after the show that both he and his wife Alecia grew up in families involved in similar vocations.
Alecia’s folks performed on the flying trapeze while employed by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, while he joined his family’s acrobatic roller-skating act at age 3.
When the couple married, they decided to assemble their own show for presentation at fairs around the nation. Over the years, their three daughters were added into the mix, Olivia, 13; Madison, 9; and Ella, 7.
When not performing, the family’s home base is in Sarasota, Florida.
“We’re on the road about eight months a year,” Shane Hansen said Saturday.
The girls are home-schooled, and get to travel to many places they might otherwise only read about.
While most parents would cringe at the idea of their children being suspended precariously in mid-air or performing other dangerous stunts, the Hansens rely on safety measures, meticulous preparation and experience to keep them safe. The daughters’ own skill and athleticism make up the rest.
“In a funny way, the performing is the easy part,” Shane Hansen added. The main challenges surround the demanding travel schedule and the setting up and taking down of equipment at each stop. The family’s next appearance will be in the Norfolk, Virginia, area.
“It’s like everything else,” the dad said. ‘We love what we do, but some days we just want to take a break.”
Saturday’s performance began with Shane demonstrating his speed-juggling skills using tennis rackets and other objects, including a spinning cube, before he literally warmed up the crowd by juggling torches.
He and his daughters then performed a series of trampoline and other stunts.
The show ended on a high note, again literally, with Alecia performing more than 30 feet in the air on a suspended rope swing. At one point during the finale, she swung over the audience and appeared to be falling, producing some gasps of alarm among spectators, only to be restrained by the rope catching on her heel at the last minute.
After the show, the audience clapped enthusiastically.
“It was really good,” Fantasia Graham of Mount Airy commented, saying she especially enjoyed the trampoline portion.
Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations has three more shows scheduled today at the fair, at 4, 6 and 8 p.m. On Monday, the final fair day, the group will perform at 6 and 8 p.m.
Fair going well
The county fair is enjoying a successful run overall, according to Thorpe.
“It was really good yesterday,” she said of attendance Friday, which was “a little low” on Thursday, the opening day.
“We’re hoping we’ll have good weather for Carload Night Monday,” Thorpe said.
For the price of $40 that day, a carload of fair-goers will be provided gate admission, unlimited-ride armbands and access to the shows.
Thorpe also said that the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion groups are operating concession stands at the fair.
She said animal shows there Saturday were going well and “we’ve had a little more exhibits come out this time.”
The gates will open today at 1:30 p.m. and the midway entertainment is to begin at 2 p.m.
On Monday, the gates will open at 3:30 p.m. and the midway at 4 p.m.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.