A crowd stares skyward, eyes fixed on three figures perched on a narrow ledge surrounded by an assortment of wires, poles, nets and swings.
Two are veteran trapeze performers; the third is Donald Buchanan of Duluth, MN, celebrating his ninth birthday by taking a thrilling trapeze lesson.
“Don’t look down, head up, toes pointed straight,” cries William (Billy) Havik, owner of the newest attraction in Freeport. Donald, hanging from the trapeze by his knees, sails through the air, grinning from ear to ear, his arms outstretched.
“That’s great! You could be the next Flying Wallenda,” shouts Havik, in a reference to the legendary family of high-wire performers from Germany.
When the flight is over, Donald is lowered gently into a safety net. Applause rings out from a group of wide-eyed young admirers awaiting their turn on the flying trapeze.
Welcome to Havik Circus, a high-wire attraction in Port Lucaya, located near the Pelican Bay Hotel and the UNEXSO dive company.
It’s fundamentally a show put on by professional flyers, but it’s also a school where would-be flyers of all ages can experience an adrenaline rush 26 feet above the ground – a thrill once enjoyed only by professional circus performers.
FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES
“We have had kids as young as four slip on the harness and take to the air,” Havik says. “It is so much fun, so easy to do and it’s absolutely safe. Everyone who tries flying can’t wait to do it again. We have lots of repeat visitors,” Havik says, including one gentleman past 80. “Birthday kids, wedding parties, groups on holiday, lots of local folks … everyone enjoys the high trapeze.”
Havik, who was born in Knoxville, TN, stumbled upon trapeze flying several years ago during a holiday at Club Med in Cancun, Mexico. He had been a professional volleyball player for several years before that.
“My planned one-week working vacation stint at Club Med turned into a year-and-a-half experience before I ever came home. I spent the entire time there and absolutely fell in love with it.
“I found myself in a similar situation as we offer here, where anybody can come up and have a lesson. So I took a few lessons, and in the space of three weeks, they had already taken me out of safety lines, saying, ‘man, you should be doing this for a living!’ Hey, I really loved it!
“I toured with the circus for Club Med all over: Australia; the Caribbean; Cancun, Mexico; the Dominican Republic and recently in Florida, too, before I came to Grand Bahama with my own operation. I was Club Med’s creative director before setting out on my own. I was already doing all this for somebody else, so why not for me?
“I love teaching and building shows here. We put on great performances in a ‘Circus Olé’ style, with lots of colour and vivacity … people see us in an attraction, then these same people you saw performing in the show can teach you the next day how to do the flying trapeze,” Havik says.
“I’d been doing trapeze circus [work] with Club Med for six years when I met Bob Christians, who flew with Barnum & Bailey, and it was he who came up with the idea that kids would enjoy taking lessons. In no time the idea was such a success we had adults, too, asking to take lessons.”
PIRATE SHOW IN THE MAKING
Today, says Havik, “We have a dedicated crew of flyers, each of whom brings their enthusiasm and unique talent to our performances, and to our students.
“Both an attraction and school, we do at least three shows a week, with one big night show, usually on Friday or Saturday nights – these are professional shows for spectators, soon to incorporate a new Pirate Circus with props, costumes and hearty yo-ho-ho shenanigans.”
Also in the works, a trapeze rig in the water, incorporating the popular UNEXSO Dolphin Experience at Sanctuary Bay.
Havik suggests kids make sure the adults with them have a camera handy as they don’t want to miss recording their first high-wire stunts.
Instructors will teach the kids hand holds and explain what to expect. Students make a few practice drops into the net. Next they can try leg-over-bar holds, basic acrobatics and, in time, advanced hand catches with another flyer.
“During the day from 9am to 12, then from 3pm until 7, daily except Tuesdays, we take you through hour-long sessions where you learn all the basics of how to fly on a trapeze. At the end of classes, 90 per cent are able to make a catch, where our associate instructors will catch them during the swings.”
At press time, Havik Circus hands were putting together a Spanish galleon for the upcoming pirate show, which includes mock cannon fire and cut-throat pirates swinging on trapezes through the smoke and billowing sails.
Disclaimer: The information in this article/release was accurate at
press time; however, we suggest you confirm all details and prices
directly with vendors.