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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wonder Woman

Monday, August 6, 2012

If it's the unique you like, look no further than the Clay County Fair, with one of the most eclectic collections of free performers you could imagine.

There will be a comedy tractor, a strolling nine-foot robot, a hynotist, a lady covered in exotic birds, the "Loony Lutherans," magicians, beachcomber singers, kangaroos, and the list goes on. The campy, offbeat and original is the stock in trade of the fair's free entertainment.

Still, you've never seen anything quite like Mama Lou, known as "The American Strong Woman," who will take the stage for several daily shows Sept. 12-16 at the U.S. Cellular Plaza.

With her "superhero" power, the 32 year-old street performer can in fact rip apart a thick telephone book with her hands, crush apples by flexing her biceps, and perform one-hand pullups on a bar while audience volunteers hold up each end.

But her act is as much about good humor and empowement as it is about muscle.

Originally from the Kansas City area, Mama Lou (aka Linsey Lindberg), left home for New York City while still in her teens to begin studying to become a clown. Mama Lou was the name she gave to her clowning character, and she's kept it ever since. After a stint in circus, she jumped to aerial acrobatics, studying at a school in Canada.

Although she still teaches trapeze skills, she found the career to be limiting.

"Aerialists can be kind of... elitist." said Lindberg in an interview.

After some soul-searching about her future, her knowledge of circus history led her to the idea of being a "strong woman," a style of performance that hasn't been seen since the 1930s.

Mama Lou has been at it now for seven years, developing something of a cult following.

She's not exactly an Incredible Hulk, but her years of aerial acrobatics had made her stronger - strong enough to bend a frying pan into a cylinder. She's found other skills along the way. How many people can lift two bags of potatoes with their tongue?

She maintains her act without an excess of weight lifting or bulking up. She prefers running, calistenics, jumping rope and doing handstands to keep her fitness level up.

"I want people to know you don't have to choose between being feminine and being strong," she says.

Some of the men she encounters in her audiences refuse to believe she could do one-handed pushups and other feats without some kind of trick.

"They sit in the audience with their arms folded," she tells one interviewer.

But it is the females in the audience she most wants to reach.

"Little girls, and women too, need a role model to look up to," she said. "I want to spread the message of empowerment."