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PREVIEW: The Grinkie Circus / INTERVIEW: Christie Williams

The 1st-century Roman poet Juvenal wrote, “There are two things that the people desire: bread and circuses.” Were he writing in English today, Juvenal might have transposed the “r” and arrived at “beard and circuses,” the unofficial theme of October 8’s Grinkie Circus.

The Grinkie Circus is the brainchild of Christi Williams, the head of Grinkie Photography and organizer of last year’s Grinkie Prom event that brought back swing dancing and awkward prom photos with style. This time around, Williams is curating a family-friendly event that runs from noon to midnight, with earlier activities for the kids and later activities for the parents. The event, which takes place at Harriet Brewing in Minneapolis, features appearances and performances by Grinkie Girls’ pin­up models, members of the Minneapolis Beard & Moustache Club, aerialists, fire breathers, fire dancers, jugglers, stilt walkers, a dancing gorilla, musicians, a caricature artist and costumed pets, plus family-­friendly crafts, glitter tattoos, a photo booth, a kissing booth benefiting People & Pets Together, and special limited edition beverages courtesy of Harriet Brewing.

The Arts Reader‘s Basil Considine sat down with Williams to talk about this move from prom-planning to circus-raising.

circus-poster-2-w-hb-logo-1Last year, you organized the Grinkie Prom to celebrate a milestone in your pinup photography business. Is there a specific catalyst for this year’s Grinkie Circus?

Last year, we had a grown-up prom to celebrate reaching 400 Grinkie Girls.  We had a blast, but I got some feed back that people didn’t want to come to Prom without a date so we decided to try something new, so this year we are doing a circus. We’ve blown past 500 girls, so I guess we are celebrating that…but just between us, I just really like the idea of throwing a circus. Who doesn’t like food, music, colorful clothes and entertainment?

We’ve added a handful of contests too. We’ll have Bearded ladies, Pin ups, and people dressing their pets up as circus animals, just to name a few.

How did your [insert family members here] react when you said that you’re running off to join the circus?

I was slightly put off by the lack of surprise exhibited by my loved ones when I informed them about the circus. “Seems about right” was the vibe I got.

This is a long (12-hour) event. If parents are bringing children, what is the prime time range for them to swing by?

I recommend parents coming with kids come on the early side.  There will be kids games and activities starting at high noon and lovely food trucks, so come hungry.  Costumes are encouraged and the Minneapolis Beard and Moustache club will have a beard-making table for the kids.  Mid-afternoon there will be a chance for any interested kids to come up on stage and show off their costumes and beards.

The kissing booth benefits People & Pets Together. What is your connection to this cause? How do you go about recruiting participants?

One of our amazing volunteers, Samantha Elsing, is a huge animal lover.  She wanted to do something nice and found People & Pets together.  It’s the first food shelf devoted to pets in the nation and its right here!

We plan to have the booth partially staffed with people and partially staffed with pets.  People have been volunteering as soon as they hear about it.  It’s a great little booth, so I imagine people will also use it as a photo op with their sweet hearts.

You mentioned that there are going to be some one-of-a-kind drinks for this event (provided by Harriet Brewing). What are some of these unusual beverages that attendees can look forward to?

Harriet Brewing has a great reputation for brewing beers that anyone could love, but I have the tolerance of a three-year-old, so they are making Grinkie Circus pop for people like me.  I have no idea what it will be, but I couldn’t be more excited about it.

What’s the process like to get liability insurance for firebreathing?

Harriet Brewing is working with the Fandazzi Fire Circus and the Fire Marshall to make sure we are being safe.   🙂

On that note… I believe we described your hairdo last year as fire hazard. In light of the actual fires this time around, will you be toting a fire extinguisher, bucket of water, or a less flammable coiffure?

A highly flammable and possibly life-threatening coiffure.  I am hoping it’ll be even bigger than last year.

The Grinkie Circus runs October 8 from 12 PM-midnight at the Harriet Brewing Company in Minneapolis. Tickets and other details are available online at, including the full event schedule, and on Facebook.

Twin Cities Arts Reader