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Street Circus Brings San Diego Schools Message Of Civic Participation

A performer with Fern Street Circus interacting with a child at Central Eleme...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: A performer with Fern Street Circus interacting with a child at Central Elementary in City Heights on Oct. 26, 2020.

At Central Elementary in City Heights families coming to pick up meals were surprised with a free pop-up circus Monday. It wasn't just live music and tricks, performers are spreading an important message.

"We started with the Census 2020 — bringing the community together to do the Census and participate," said Marcela Mercado with Fern Street Circus. "And now we are doing the neighborhood tour and we're encouraging the community to get out and vote!"

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

The nonprofit Fern Street Circus has been doing pop-up fairs in San Diego parks for years, said founder John Highkin. During the pandemic, the group is going to food distribution sites at San Diego Unified Schools to bring some fun in a socially distanced way.

"Really about community education in part as well as making it a memorable occasion for families," Highkin said.

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Reported by Matt Hoffman , Video by Roland Lizarondo

The Fern Street Circus includes live music, juggling, clowning, acrobatics and tightwire walking — but performers say it is the smiles from kids that made it all worth it.

"Surprises them, delights them and it kind of perks up the day a little bit," Hightkin said.

The same goes for Mercado, who was delivering messages about social distancing and voting Monday in English and Spanish to parents.

"Bringing a smile to their faces — that’s the biggest pay that we get," she said.

San Diego Unified has around 80 food distribution sites open weekly.

"These meals are available for every student, for every family in San Diego Unified regardless of income," said Cristine Holmer with the district's food and nutrition program.

The next Fern Street Circus event is Tuesday at Knox Middle School. People can walk-up to get meals or have them dropped off in their vehicles.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said the Fern Street Circus would be performing at the Malcolm X Library on Saturday. That performance has been canceled.


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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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