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DANVERS - The Gamma Phi Circus has a special place in the heart of Jerry Polacek for more than one reason.

Polacek directed the circus for 28 years, retiring in 2003. He also met his wife, Marsha Polacek, there.

The assistant professor emeritus at the School of Kinesiology and Recreation at Illinois State University will talk about the history of the circus at 1 p.m. today in the Bone Student Center Faculty Staff Commons.

His talk might include the tidbit that the circus, in its 77th year, is one of only two collegiate circuses in the United States. The other is at Florida State University.

That's where new director Al Light came from, Polacek said.

Polacek said the Gamma Phi Circus has evolved with the times, adding more aerial acts that he said "gets spectators' adrenaline going."

Students volunteering to be in the circus receive no compensation, but often find that they make friends for life, sometimes finding marriage partners, Polacek said.

Polacek is adapting to retirement, moving from Normal to rural Danvers and spending more time with the grandkids.

Retiring was hard, said the 61-year-old former teacher, "because I knew it would mean I wouldn't be working with the students anymore."

Nevertheless, he continues to supervise up to seven student teachers each semester at ISU, and both he and his wife remain physically active. "I try to run five days a week," he said.

His move to rural Danvers, meanwhile, has put him at Spin Lake, where he'd like to find time for more fishing.

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