Meet the larger than life guy who has been charming Ocala/Marion County residents for more than 10 years.
If you’ve attended one of the many outdoor events our area has to offer during the past 10 or so years, there’s a good chance you encountered a guy so big on charm that he left a lasting impression.
At 9 feet tall on his stilts, Mike Weakley cuts a striking figure, easily capturing the attention of and delighting spectators young and old.
“You have to be a people person to succeed at this job,” he offers. “I juggle, twist balloons, and play games while on stilts. I love to dance. People get a kick out of seeing me wiggle my knees back and forth. It’s all about making sure the guests are having fun.”
While Weakley is a long-time staple at such events as the Ocala Arts Festival (he will be back this year, on Sunday) and Marion County Carnival, his first local event was the Ocala Crawfish Festival in 2012.
“I remember wearing a red crawfish hat,” he recalls. “Sadly, they no longer put on that festival.”
His start in entertainment can be traced back to a job he had delivering balloons while in college.
“I was paid extra if I dressed as a clown. People started asking for me to come dressed up for birthday parties or grand openings. It was a blast,” he says. “Soon after, I dropped out of business school to audition for Clown College.”
He attended the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in 1988 and, following graduation, spent seven years performing with Ringling Bros. Circus. Of the memorable venues he has played, including the White House, Caesar’s Palace and SeaWorld, one has a special place in his heart.
“One of the most memorable places was Madison Square Garden. Opening night was magical,” he offers. “Sold-out performance—around 20,000 people and we received a huge standing ovation at the end of the show. I still get chills thinking back on that.”
And, at 57 years old, he’s still going strong.
“I’m happiest when I’m performing. I’ve been an entertainer for 30-plus years. I’m proud of the fact that I am still making a full-time living at it,” he shares. “I will be stilt walking for as long as my body lets me. Even after that, I’ll find some way to entertain.” OS
To learn more, visit www.stiltfun.com