If you’ve ever been to the circus or a parade, you have without a doubt seen someone walking along high above the crowd on a pair of stilts. To the common man, stilts are the mainstay of theatrical performers, clowns, jugglers, and that odd looking fellow from the Liberal Arts College in their annual parade. What most people don’t know is that stilts have a long and august history in many cultures, for reasons varying from ceremonial to purely practical. Walk on Stilts Day is the perfect time to learn about this surprisingly useful tools, and maybe try out a pair for yourself!
A Stilt is described as a ‘pillar, post, or pole employed to assist a person or structure in standing above the ground’. While most of us, as mentioned previously, have only seen them employed for the purposes of entertainment, they have also been used in many industries, from shepherding to construction. In some cases stilts are actually employed in the construction of a building as part of the permanent structure. After all, if you find yourself living in a flood plain, upon the beach, or some other area where the ground is less than reliable, what better way to protect yourself than raising yourself above it all?
The process of employing stilts for mobility, however, has been around since as far back as the 6th Century BC. In the Landes region of France, shepherds would use them to watch their flocks from an elevated position, while those who lived in town often used them to traverse the sodden earth in their normal activities. While they fell out of use for such practical uses for many years, recently there has been a resurgence in those industries where there is a need to work at a height further above ground than the worker can reach, and consistently enough where moving a ladder is at best inconvenient. The most common of these is the drywall industry, so commonly used is it, in fact, that a special design, and a name to match, has been put together for them. In Germany they are called Handwerkerstelzen. Or Drywall stilts.
Walk on Stilts Day gives an excellent opportunity for you to join the august ranks of people who have used the stilts for work and play throughout history. If you’re ready for a new hobby that will take you on adventures to new heights, then you’re ready to try out stilts! You can find them at a local supplier, or look online for ready made ones. The truly adventurous can even try looking online to find kits to make them. When you start out walking on stilts, try a shorter stilt to begin with, getting used to having longer legs can be quite the challenge. Then, as you get more and more proficient, start adding height to the stilts! Eventually you’ll be strolling along, with a new perspective on life!