Circus Stella kicks off weekend of shows in Bemidji

Aug. 26—BEMIDJI — Balance artist Dextre Tripp and his wife, aerialist Jana Colgin, strive to put on a one-of-a-kind community circus with a vast showcase of human skills like acrobatics, comedy, balancing acts and more.


Circus Stella

represents a whole lot more than their captivating performances.

The husband and wife team built their family circus with the dream of giving rescue dogs a second chance to find permanent and loving homes.

"We offer a very personal experience, it's as if you're right there in our living room with us. We love to have people participate in what we're doing," Tripp said. "And the other thing that really resonates with people is the fact that one of our main messages is specifically to find homes for rescue dogs."

Known for their commitment to creating memorable events that not only draw crowds and entertain audiences across America, but they also raise funds for good causes in those communities.

Circus Stella kicked off a weekend of performances on Friday evening at a circus tent set up outside of Crossroads Church in Bemidji, located at 3354 Laurel Drive. The shows continue at 2, 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26; and 2 and 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27. To purchase tickets, visit

Tripp has always wanted to pursue a career in the circus for as long as he can remember after seeing some shows as a child.

But it all started when he worked as a caddy on a golf course and one of the golfers he was assisting knew how to juggle.

"When you're a caddy, you spend a lot of time waiting around. So (juggling) was a good thing to do while waiting because we could still be at the right place, but we'd be practicing juggling golf balls," Tripp said. "That was just the beginning, but I soon found there are far too many jugglers in the world and I had to find other ways to get noticed."

He started walking on ropes, balancing on ladders and stacking chairs to do handstands on top of them. Soon, he started adding his own flare to the traditional skills by using everyday objects in unique ways.

"I was really inspired by the traditional Chinese acrobats. So it was kind of creating my new comedic twist on traditional skills. One of the things I really like to do is use ordinary objects in extraordinary ways," Tripp said. "Juggling gave me the confidence to say 'If I put in the time and effort, I can learn a new skill' and that led to unicycling, rope walking and ladder balancing."

It also led to a successful career of nearly 40 years in the entertainment industry — and the last portion of it was spent alongside his wife and seven rescue dogs in Circus Stella.

In 1997 when the couple met at a Renaissance Festival in North Carolina, Tripp was doing his rope balancing act while Colgin was the court jester along with performing her aerial act.

"We were both performing our acts separately at different fairs and festivals, so we each had our separate shows and that was working out pretty good," Tripp said. "Then one year we both adopted rescue dogs at the Georgia Renaissance Festival and the dog that I got was named Stella."

According to Tripp, Stella was a very hyper dog and always needed to be doing something whether it was playing fetch or going on long walks to keep her occupied. He began to teach his dog a few tricks — she was a natural.

"One day at one of my shows, I asked the crowd if they wanted to see my dog do a couple of tricks," he said, "and the folks said 'Sure, let's watch your dogs.' And that was the beginning of the idea of putting all of it together and aiming for more of a circus theme."

So, the couple joined forces along with their furry friends to create a one-of-a-kind family circus named after the dog who started it all — Stella.

"That was also a way we could all be in the same place at the same time," Tripp said. "Because before, there were occasions where we'd be in different parts of the country. So by working together, we got to be together."

As Tripp hopes to expand Circus Stella one day, he dreams of forming their performances into dog adoption events. After all, the whole point of why they started in the first place was to raise awareness of pets who need permanent homes.

"I would take my existing tent and use it as the greeting tent where you first come in. And in that tent, I would like to have dogs that are available for adoption so that our shows become adoption events," Tripp said. "That's what the vision of building a circus was: to create events where people don't have to go to the shelter to see rescue dogs, they can come to the circus and they could take one home."

But as Tripp and Colgin get to perform in cities all over the country and help those communities raise money for the fundraisers of their choosing, the best part for them is being a part of something bigger than themselves.

"It's more than just skills," Tripp said. "The best part is working together as a team with other performers and creating something greater than ourselves."

Just as Tripp was once a child watching other performers on stage and thinking to himself "I want to be just like them," another thing that keeps him going is seeing the happiness in the audiences' faces when they come to see the circus.

"Another part that I really love is just that look of joy in the kids' faces because we're probably their first circus and there's just so much to see. It's so exciting and they get to be a part of it," Tripp left off. "During intermission, they're running around doing cartwheels and stuff because they're just so inspired."