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  • Writer's pictureChris A.

Circus History at your Feet

We can thank John Ringling (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baileys Circus) for creating a lasting legacy that characterizes our city to this day. Since 1926 when Lido Key first opened to automobile traffic Lido Key has a long history with the circus and there's still signs of that everywhere.

When the circus headquarters moved to Sarasota in 1927 it was not uncommon to see circus performers practicing on Lido beach. "The Greatest Show on Earth" directed by Cecile was filmed in Sarasota in 1952 and used the circus performers and animals as supporting cast. And in the south Lido Key neighborhood there's still a group of homes referred to as the "Clown Houses". There's literally circus history everywhere.

It was years before I realized that I was walking past circus history every time I was at St. Armands Circle. Most people walk around the outside circle where the shops and restaurants are. The inner circle where the art and car shows are staged is where the Circle Ring of Fame is located.

The Circle Ring of Fame

Since 1988 the Circus Ring of Fame Foundation has been recognizing persons that made significant contributions to the circus over their career. The selected nominees are recognized at an annual induction ceremony and receive a plaque recognizing their contributions on the Circle Ring of Fame. Reading the plaques brings visions of the amazing talents that many of them had. Enjoy checking them out the next time you're at the circle.

For a summary of the history of the circus there's a good blog Sarasota's Circus Legacy Lives on! by Deborah Walk, Assistant Director of Legacy and Circus at the Ringling. or check out the Circus Museum at the Ringling.

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