Leap of faith pays off for Pioneer Park's flying trapeze business
The feelings are always the same for Dennis Ford.
He may look cool and collected from afar as he climbs the ladder and perches at the top of the flying trapeze.
But inside, it's a different story.
His heart beats faster. He's jittery. He has to remind himself: breathe. It's been this way every time he has been on a flying trapeze in the past five years.
And then, he jumps.
He swings effortlessly, lets go of the bar and flips three times. His fingertips brush the catcher swinging upside down on the other side of the trapeze but they don't connect. The crowd gathered on the ground gasps, then cheers, as Ford hits the net below.
But Ford isn't a circus performer. He's just a regular guy, swinging from a metal contraption set up in Salt Lake City's Pioneer Park.
Kristen Ulmer, along with six other co-owners, brought the trapeze to Salt Lake City. Just a few weeks ago, Utah Flying Trapeze opened for business on the south end of Pioneer Park.
"It really is like flying," Ulmer said Wednesday. "That's what it feels like."
Ulmer said anyone can fly on the trapeze from children to the elderly, from the most athletic to the overweight. And if you are scared of heights? Well, she says, grabbing onto that bar and taking a leap off the 30-foot structure is one of the best ways to cure that fear.
"Fear is a whole part of this," Ulmer said. "It will fix that fear of heights."The trapeze company was recognized by city officials Wednesday, who said the company brings a much-needed positive influence to the Salt Lake City park.
Rick Graham, Salt Lake City's public services director, said Wednesday that, though the park already hosts the Salt Lake City Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Twilight Concert Series on Thursdays, it can benefit from even more businesses and events.
"This is a unique, exciting facility," he said of Utah Flying Trapeze. "They bring a new and fun activity to this park."
Ulmer acknowledges a bit of hesitation in setting up shop in a park that is commonly associated with drug activity and crime. But she said she's noticed a change in just the few weeks they've been in business there.
On one of the first days open, Ulmer said her partners noticed two men doing drugs outside a bathroom near their fenced-in facility. One of the co-owners approached the men, told them to leave, and said they can't do that there anymore because they have customers and families coming to the park. They haven't seen the men since, Ulmer said.
"We bring a super-positive, super-friendly vibe," she said. "It's really been a bigger transformation than we expected."
Salt Lake City police Lt. Rich Brede said the police department supports businesses such as Utah Flying Trapeze that bring people to parks.
"I'm encouraged by the things that I've been seeing," Brede said of Pioneer Park. "They have a legitimate use here that's filing a void, and driving criminal activity out of the area."
To Ford, a 60-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., man who traveled to Salt Lake City just to fly on the trapeze, the park is perhaps the best place he's seen to set up a flying trapeze except for maybe the few trapezes he's gone to in the Caribbean. His home facility, he said, sits on a dirt lot.
"You've got the trees, the mountains, the park," he said. "It's so cool."
Ulmer said they'll be at the park through the summer and fall. She hopes they'll find an indoor facility to continue classes during the winter months.
A two-hour class with Utah Flying Trapeze costs $53. The company is also offering $5 "swings" on Saturdays during the farmers market. For more information and class times, visit http://www.utahtrapeze.com.