Join The Ringling in Celebrating World Circus Day

Arts & Culture

SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY APR 9, 2021

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is pleased to announce the celebration of World Circus Day, April 17, 2021. World Circus Day is an annual holiday dedicated to circus as an art form. The celebration will include performances by the Circus Arts Conservatory at 1pm and 3pm on The Ringling grounds. SRQ Media spoke with Ringling Manager Virginia Harshman to find out more about the special link between Sarasota and the circus. 

SRQ: What makes the circus so special to Sarasota?

Virginia Harshman: Since 1927 when John Ringling established the Winter Quarters for Ringling Bros. and Barnum in Sarasota the city has been recognized as a center for the circus arts. The largest of the American circuses brought performers from all over the world to Sarasota and many settled here. The circus community is woven into the fabric of Sarasota with multi-generations of performers creating exciting new acts and continuing a tradition of excellence. Today, with The Ringling as a site to celebrate and preserve the history of the circus and active circus organizations including Circus Arts Conservatory, the city remains a unique hub where people can interface with the past, present, and future of the circus.

SRQ: How can visitors still feel that unique circus excitement around town today?

VH: Depending on their interests, there are many ways that visitors and Sarasota locals can still find the excitement of the circus. The Circus Museum invites guests to view firsthand the extraordinary parade wagons, glittering costumes, and fascinating circus posters that make up the material culture of the historic circus. The Howard Bros. Circus Model gives museum goers a sense of the scale of the tented American cat its largest and The Greatest Show on Earth Mural gives a sense of the overwhelming visual spectacle and excitement of circus in the later part of the century.

Along with exploring the history of the circus, in Sarasota visitors have so many opportunities to engage with a living community of performers. The Circus Arts Conservatory offers a calendar of live performances as well as classes in the circus arts and organizations like The Big Cat Habitat offer live programs and education about animal care and conservation.

Even our schools benefit from the unique contributions of circus to the Sarasota area. Educational programs through The Ringling and Circus Arts Conservatory adapt concepts related to the circus arts to curriculum in science, math and language arts. 

SRQ: What are some secret or lesser known circus landmarks around town locals and visitors might not know about?

VH: Along with the groups lised above like Circus Arts Conservatory and The Big Cat Habitat, there are many places with less visible connections to the circus in Sarasota. Showfolks Club of Sarasota is a private club open to people in the performing community and the Ring of Fame in the center of St. Armand’s Circle has plaques giving the histories of performers honored by the association. Throughout Sarasota County you can find historical markers making the connections to people and places related to the circus. The Wallenda Home, The Circus in Venice and the Winter Quarters site are among those listed on the County’s web page.

Click here for more information.

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