This summer, the delightful Cirque du Monument returns to downtown, this year with a special cause in mind.

On June 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the second annual event will take over Front Street in downtown Monument, providing residents with a fun-filled day of entertainment.

“It’s a time for the community to get together and enjoy what will hopefully be beautiful weather and kick off summer,” said event organizer Jennifer Cunningham, the owner of downtown Monument’s Gallery 132.

The headlining entertainment is Aerial Aura, a Colorado Springs-based aerial tour featuring husband-and-wife team Chris Wegert and Emily Barber. The duo performed last year and was a hit.

“It started out as an aerial acrobatics demonstration, but I wanted to make it bigger,” Cunningham said of this year’s expanded performance.

Emily Barber started aerial eight years ago after a knee injury forced her to stop practicing martial arts and find something new to challenge herself. Her husband, Chris Wegert, started five years ago, and they began performing together soon after.

“The crowd last year was very responsive,” said Barber. “It’s always fun performing for that type of audience.”

Cirque du Monument will also offer face painting and henna tattoos, a petting zoo with pony rides from the Colorado Pumpkin Patch and alpacas to feed from Black Forest Alpacas, a bratwurst stand, and free popcorn. Music will be provided by the professional DJ Sound Junction. Kids will also have the opportunity to climb in a cop car, ambulance and fire truck.

The event is free to the public, and any money raised will go toward fundraising for first responders of the Tri-Lakes/Monument police and fire departments.

Money will help the Monument Police Department purchase a new ballistic shield to protect police officers while in the line of duty. The department currently has seven, but the shields are out of date and warranties expired.

Monument Police Chief Jacob Shirk said the department’s shields are worn from heat, humidity and everyday wear and tear. He said it’s important these shields are up-to-date, because officers use them as extra protection to respond to calls in which suspects could possibly be armed.

“We want officers to come home safely,” Shirk said. “It’s a needed item.”

Shirk said he and other officers are excited to attend the event and spend time with other residents and visitors.

“It’s not only helping our first responders,” he said, “but it’s going to be a fun time.”

Local firefighters will also benefit from the event, receiving money to help fund training and counseling services for first responders.

“There has been a major move afoot to recognize the fact that first responders are under a tremendous amount of stress, and their mental health and well-being is suffering because of it,” Cunningham said. “They have to deal with trauma day and in day out with their job, and they don’t get a lot of down time to recuperate.”

The cause is important to Cunningham, especially after seeing the effects of distress firsthand with a friend who went through “a range of emotions” after responding to two traumatic events.

“My heart goes out to folks who have to deal with dramatic situations as a first responder,” she said. “They’re expected to be there and not show any emotion and be strong. It turns out being detrimental to them in the long run.”

In its inaugural year last June, Cirque du Monument attracted more than 1,000 visitors, and Cunningham hopes even more will come out this year to support the local responders.

“I initially did it (Cirque du Monument) as a way to gain exposure for the town,” she said. “A lot of folks don’t even know there’s a downtown Monument, and this gave people a reasons to come downtown and see all the stores and restaurants available.”

To capitalize on fundraising, Cunningham reached out to potential donors. The event is funded by 25 sponsors, two of which are co-presenting the event: Ryan Graham Homes and the Shandy Clinic.

Ryan Graham Homes is a realty agency owned by Ryan Graham, a local realtor who went into real estate the business after serving 11 years fighting fires in the Monument area. The Shandy Clinic offers therapeutic outpatient therapies and Autism evaluations.

Cirque du Monument will start at 11 a.m. June 1 on Front Street in downtown Monument. Cunningham recommended visitors arrive early to beat crowds. Parking attendants will direct cars to the grass lot across the street from the event.

To learn more, visit gallery132.com/cirque-2019 or the event’s Facebook page.

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