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A day in the life of a street performer at Summerfest

Posted at 7:14 PM, Jul 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 20:14:11-04

MILWAUKEE — Did you know some street performers hire bodyguards to protect them from hecklers? What about that many stilt walkers make their own stilts?

The culture of street performers is strong at Summerfest with the Dead Man’s Carnival performing every day.

"I actually have about 35 different characters that I do.”

Alice Wilson is a living statue. She stands still for hours as people pass by. However, she moves once someone interacts with her.

"I do actually get to move quite a bit because every time someone offers me a gratuity I come to life.”

She has to deal with people messing with her. She said people often try to have her break character.

"Probably 50 people a day walk by me and go 'Tickle, tickle, tickle.' "

Not everyone is respectful, though.

"We’ve actually each hired a friend this year to come to be our security, if you will.”

That doesn’t stop her from performing. She has done it for six years and doesn’t see herself stopping at any point.

"My interactions with people that are mesmerized by it whether it's an adult or little kid.”

It seems like standing still would be a fairly easy thing to do; however, Wilson said it’s very physical and requires a lot of strength.

"You wouldn’t think standing still is so physical, but it really is, I mean my core is pretty solid."

It’s not just the living statues that require a sneaky amount of strength; stilt walkers need it, too.

"Well, especially the athleticism of it. I do also a juggling act with stunts and fire and knives, kind of thing,” said Martin Hill, a multi-act performer.

His main gig is stilts and said he started doing it after his friend showed him how to build them.

"You wouldn’t think standing still is so physical, but it really is, I mean my core is pretty solid." — living statue Alice Wilson

"First part was, I had to make the stilts. When I started, there wasn’t anywhere to buy those,” Hill said.

He uses a unique kind of stilts. The shoes at the bottom of his 3-foot wooden planks are very tiny. They look like a children's shoe.

Even after he has walked in stilts for years, Hill said he still gets nervous when he puts them on.

"It is a little bit scary.”

He has only fallen twice.

The two are part of a group called the Dead Man’s Carnival. That have been and will be at Summerfest for the entire 11 days.