Lifting the fair’s entertainment; John Beatty gives classic strongman show

Strongman John Beatty lifts a bench with 10 kids weighing a combined total of around 900 pounds Friday at the Mower County Fair. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Strongman John Beatty lifts a bench with 10 kids weighing a combined total of around 900 pounds Friday at the Mower County Fair. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

It’s not every day you see a man lift 900 pounds of children.

Yet John Beatty did that and more up to three times a day this weekend at the Mower County Fair. The 48-year-old strongman has performed at fairs and other big events for the past 10 years, but the former “American’s Got Talent” finalist has been athletically gifted for far longer.

Strongman John Beatty shows off a nail he drove through a frying pan and piece of wood with his hand. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Strongman John Beatty shows off a nail he drove through a frying pan and piece of wood with his hand. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“I started lifting weights in junior high school,” Beatty said before an afternoon show on Friday. “My dad had always been a lifter since he was a teenager. So when I started lifting, my dad told me ‘If you want to lift, you’ve got to have the proper form.’”

Beatty’s father’s lessons paid off. By the end of eighth grade, Beatty could squat more than 300 pounds as a 6-foot, 170-pound teenager.

Since then, Beatty has competed in world’s strongest man competitions — where he often excelled and even set a world record — performed strongman feats and more.

As Beatty tells it, he didn’t set out to become a professional strongman until his daughter brought in a bolt he had bent to her preschool class. The teacher asked Beatty to demonstrate his feats of strength for the children, and some parents asked him to perform at their son’s birthday party.

Strongman John Beatty rolls a frying pan during his performance Friday at the Mower County Fair. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Strongman John Beatty rolls a frying pan during his performance Friday at the Mower County Fair. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“I had two bookings and I didn’t even have an act yet,” Beatty said.

Beatty has become well-known for competing on “America’s Got Talent,” where he famously curled a frying pan with his hands and became a finalist after British journalist and TV personality Piers Morgan initially doubted his talents. Though Morgan couldn’t unroll the frying pan, Beatty did it with ease.

“It was easy when you’ve got 2,000 people staring at you,” Beatty said. “That was motivating.”

Nowadays, Beatty tours fairs, festivals and other events throughout the U.S. and Canada during the summer, though he’s still a full-time registered nurse in Champaigne, Illinois.

No two shows are the same, according to Beatty, as he likes to vary the acts he performs throughout the day. On Friday, Beatty did everything from rip a phonebook in half — while a laying on a bed of nails with an adult man standing on top of him — pound a nail through a frying pan and a board using his fist, and carry two men on his back using a strongman’s yolk.

“It’s not bad,” said Bruce Stendahl, one of two men Beatty carried Friday afternoon.

He even pulled a tractor, on the same day of the Mower County Fair’s tractor pull.

Beatty’s favorite trick is a little more romantic than tractors, however. He likes to twist a steel horseshoe into a heart.

“People always love it,” he said with a laugh.

What’s more, anything Beatty bends is for sale at the end of the show, including the horseshoe heart.

Beatty will perform throughout the fair this weekend. On Sunday, Beatty’s show is held at the Fair Square at 11:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m., followed by a demonstration at the carnival area at 4 p.m.

Strongman John Beatty bench presses Delana Risser during his show Friday at the Mower County Fair. Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Strongman John Beatty bench presses Delana Risser during his show Friday at the Mower County Fair. Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

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