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Former Acrobat Finds a Niche as a Firefighter

The Herald Review via YellowBrix

September 08, 2010

DECATUR – This daring young man on the flying trapeze decided to become a firefighter.

Jason Nolan, a Decatur firefighter since Sept. 4, 2008, began performing in the Illinois State University Gamma Phi Circus in Normal and on the road in 1994. His wife-to-be, Meghan, was also part of the circus, an institution peculiar to Illinois State and Florida State.

“My circus specialties were the trapeze and the German wheel, a type of gymnastics,” Nolan, 34, said. “I also did an Adagio dance act with my wife.”

True to the legend of life on the road with the circus, Nolan said they performed or taught wherever “the wind took us.”

A Monticello High School graduate, Nolan and Meghan, a Farmer City Blue Ridge High School graduate, met at Illinois State where they began exercising together and, curious about the circus, figured that kind of act would be a lot of fun.

“I worked for Club Med and worked in China, mainly as an instructor, including trapeze and high ropes,” Nolan said.

His trapeze technique is highlighted by thinking slow and acting fast. The trapeze is a short bar that hangs on two ropes from the ceiling. The trapeze performer flies from one bar to another while the audience gasps in amazement.

“Performing is a confidence-building process.” Nolan said.

Confidence is particularly needed in performing on the German wheel. It’s a kind of gymnastics which originated in Germany. The performer does exercises and stunts while positioned inside a moving wheel.

“There are three kinds of German wheel – spiral, straight line and vault,” Nolan said. “I preferred the spiral kind. It’s a competitive sport in Europe with judging similar to gymnastics and hereabouts is mainly seen in the Chicago area. It’s a matter of practice, practice, practice.”

Curious? Check out on the Internet and type “German wheel” into the search bar.

When not performing, the Nolans taught school in South Carolina, Illinois and California. They were also part of a circus school in Redlands, Calif.

The transition into firefighter was a natural one for Nolan.

As a youngster, Nolan was introduced to fire engines and the fire station in Cisco where his father was a volunteer. So when it came time to settle down, firefighting was the choice.

Like his fellow firefighters, Nolan works a 24-hour shift, then has 48 hours off.

“I smile every day going to work,” he said. “I can’t imagine a better job. And like the trapeze and wheel, we do a lot of training.”

“I know why Jason is a firefighter,” observes Lyle Meador, the Decatur fire marshal: “It’s different, it’s challenging and we help people. We’re pleased to have him.”

The Nolans live on a farm near Mansfield area with his wife and two young sons as well as cattle and chickens. Meghan has been a sixth-grade teacher in the Blue Ridge School District and this year will teach seventh and eighth grade.