By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — October always brings the out-of-the-ordinary to Salem. This year, that includes an outdoor trapeze school.
The Fearless Flyers trapeze academy set up in Leslie’s Retreat Park last week and will be giving lessons through Halloween, weather permitting.
On a recent afternoon, joggers, families on bicycles and dog walkers paused to watch students climb a long ladder to a 22-foot-high platform and reach for the trapeze bar, taking direction from husband and wife owners Don and Ally Dinh.
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Barks and yips from the nearby dog park combined with the Dinh’s coaching and classmates’ calls of encouragement to each other. The couple’s SUV, with a license plate that reads TRAPEZE, was parked nearby.
Don and Ally Dinh and Don’s brother, Lam Dinh, run a mobile, outdoor trapeze school. Earlier this month, the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission voted to give Fearless Flyers permission to operate in Leslie’s Retreat Park through Nov. 1.
The Dinhs brought their business to Salem because they have students in the area and live in Peabody. Plus, what better time to come to Salem than October, Ally Dinh said.
“This is where we have ties; our trapeze family is here,” she said. “This is where we want to be.”
Leslie’s Retreat, which includes the city’s dog park, is a long, tree-lined park on the North River off Commercial and North streets.
The Dinhs’ trapeze rig is hard to miss — it’s 32 feet high at its tallest point and 60 feet long.
At night, they take down the net, ladder and other pieces, leaving only the poles. They stow some pieces in their car, and others are chained down and locked up, Ally said.
Stripping everything away after lessons eliminates any risk of people using the rig unsupervised, she said.
The couple have extensive backgrounds in teaching and athletics, from martial arts to acrobatics. They are both certified as Olympic-level trampoline coaches and judges.
They previously worked at the Trapeze School New York in Jordan’s Furniture in Reading but broke away to start their own school this spring. They move their trapeze rig around the area for lessons, summer camps, and team-building programs for businesses and other groups.
The couple met — of course — through trapeze. They both “got hooked” on the sport after taking a class, Ally Dinh said.
“We just love what we do. There’s nothing better than teaching a flying-trapeze class,” she said, breaking into a smile. “We’re a school. We want to teach people about this, to learn the art of trapeze, install a love of trapeze.”
Coming to Salem is a win-win, Ally Dinh said. They’re bringing something new to an under-utilized spot in town, bringing in revenue for the Parks and Recreation Department, and gaining exposure for their business.
They also plan to start an after-school program to offer free trapeze lessons to Salem Public School students. The Dinhs have contacted SPS administration, hoping to start a pilot program in October.
The couple said they’d love to set up in Salem again next fall.
In Salem, a two-hour lesson with Fearless Flyers is $39 on weekdays and $45 on weekends. They teach anyone, from beginners to professionals, Don Dinh said.
The Dinhs teach every lesson together, they said.
“Anyone can do this,” Ally Dinh said, gesturing to the towering trapeze rig. “It’s a lot of fun, great exercise and builds great community.”
City councilors mentioned the trapeze school briefly at their Sept. 12 meeting and suggested its possible impact on the neighborhood be discussed by the council’s subcommittee on community and economic development.
Councilor Josh Turiel, the subcommittee’s chairperson, said no meeting was scheduled because councilors later felt it wasn’t necessary.
The trapeze school is under the jurisdiction of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department because it’s on park property. Karen Partanen, Salem’s director of park, recreation and community services, could not be reached last week for comment for this article.
Class schedules and other details can be found at www.fearlessflyersacademy.com.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.