Sarasota’s big top………..

In honor of World Circus Day, April 18, 2015 a reminder of Sarasota’s spectacular circus days……….

201circuswinterquarterspictorial1946In 1927 John Ringling moved the winter quarters of the circus to Sarasota.  The move would forever change Sarasota.


It wasn’t unusual to be stopped at a railroad crossing in Sarasota by the circus train coming or leaving town.


The winter quarters was located on the east side of Beneva Road just north of Fruitville Road.  It was a formidable training center for the artists and champions of the circus.


In the 1950’s a huge metal sign was erected to attract visitors to the unique facility.  The sign and the quarters no longer exist.  The circus moved its home to Venice then on to Tampa. Today Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey Circus winter headquarters is close by in Ellenton bringing an even greater circus presence to the area.


 Winter quarters performance


Circus families established homes in the Laurel Park area, in the colorful mobile home park in what is today’s Payne Park and throughout the city.  They brought with them a tapestry of cultural backgrounds.

F Elslander_JRNorth

John Ringling North with Father Elslander blessing the circus.


It was common to pass the performers on the street.


Circus acts premiered in the dining room of the John Ringling Hotel.  Captain Heyer on his steed, Starless Night would trot right in the front entrance to perform during dinner.

Starless Night

Today Sarasota is most fortunate to have the circus again taking a significant role in the community.  The Circus Arts Conservatory including the Sailor Circus Academy and Circus Sarasota are internationally recognized organizations promoting, teaching and performing the art in our very own back yard!


To truly get a feel for the enormous part the circus has played in the growth of Sarasota, The Circus Museum on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum campus is worth a trip and another.  It is a special place for children of all ages!